patents pending

 

For some reason, my neighborhood has more labradoodles than most. Makes me wonder if there’s some kind of canine genetic engineering facility in Uptown, disguised as a Vietnamese restaurant or a bike repair shop.

 

 

I don’t usually weigh in on bioethical issues, being a comedy writer, and I realize the labradoodle was bred to be a service animal, but I think it’s a slippery, if adorable, slope. What’s to prevent an enterprising breeder from crossing a crow with, say, a raccoon, creating a frightening flying destruction machine, swooping down on trashcans in the alley, all claws and beak? Point being, you open the door to labradoodles, and eventually the bus stop at my corner will end up looking like a bizarre, surreal bio-lab.

Despite my skittishness about tinkering with genetics, what is typically called ‘Frankenfood’ doesn’t bother me.  If a some scientists can come up with a way to breed garlic cloves that you don’t have to peel, or brussel sprouts that taste…different than brussel sprouts, I say give ‘em a grant. If there’s a way to breed broccoli so that it’s all florets and no stems, that’s science helping mankind.

I’ve always dreamed of being an inventor, but my dreams have always been stymied by my lack of actual inventions. I also can’t draw, and I have no mechanical aptitude, so I have to basically describe my inventions with words. This has made my ideas harder to pitch, what without some sort of…thing to show people.

I’m sure if I had a workshop, and knew what one did in a workshop, I could build something that would be huge. Not sure what it would do, but I’d make it really big. Understand that my visions require you to not only think outside of the box, but to actually get in a second box and think outside of that.

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For example, the Bicycle Ashtray™. Let’s face it. Not everyone bikes for their health. Sometimes you bike because you need to get to the store for a pack of smokes. But what if you want to have a smoke WHILE you’re biking?

Attaching to the handlebar at an ergonomically designed angle, the Bicycle Ashtray™ is, technically speaking, an ashtray, attached to the bicycle. Some of these things invent themselves, people.

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We’re Americans, and as Americans, we like as many vices at one time as we can handle. Soda pop with extra sugar? Check. Chocolate-flavored wine? We got that. Vodka AND Red Bull? Who doesn’t want ox bile extract in their cocktail?! So why not caffeinated cigarettes?

The reality is, the few people who actually have jobs are very busy. And I’m sure there are times at work, when you need a pick-me-up, but you don’t have time to get a cup of coffee on your smoke break.

Now you can enjoy the jangly buzz of the bean and the edgy heart-racing of a cigarette in every puff! Hello? Phillip Morris? Might want to jump on this. Call ‘em, Sippin’ Cigs™, and put a cartoon hipster with dreads on the box.

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If you live anywhere that has winter, you know that not everyone is diligent about getting the ice off their sidewalks. Well if the landlord isn’t gonna hunker down with a bag of rock salt, do the next best thing—walk in shoes that have the salt already built in!

With each step, tiny holes in the bottoms of your Slushers™ will release enough snow-melting salt to turn treacherous sheets of ice into whimsical puddles (note: focus groups seemed to resist the idea of keeping a bunch of salt in the bottom of each shoe, and having lots of tiny holes in their shoes…this concept may need more work).

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Love to read? Love hot baths? Until now, you couldn’t take your favorite author into the bath with you without getting your Dan Brown damp and your Ludlum limp. And I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to take your Kindle or Nook in the tub at all. So…..waterproof books!

These would be special versions of current bestsellers, each page laminated with a splashproof coating. You can finally read underwater! Sure, an eight-hundred page laminated novel might be a little cumbersome, but none of those eight hundred pages will be wet. Here’s a slogan for you: “Bath Books™–making reading almost too relaxing.”

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Lastly, as a novice cook, I’m all about the gadgets, especially gadgets that have more than one use. Then I got to thinking, why not combine every essential kitchen appliance into one mega appliance! You’d have the OmniChef 3000™! The bottom part would be a broiler, then above that a toaster, and coming out on the sides would be an electric can opener, a blender, and a cappucino maker.

Then on top of that you have a built-in wok/steamer, and coming out from that would be various sharp things you can use to peel potatoes, husk corn and zest whatever you want to make zesty. At the very top would be four electric burners, with a removable lid for grilling. Oh, and I picture a foldout cutting board, and probably a mandoline.

Sadly, in addition to some potential safety issues, the original design would have to be about four feet tall and three feet wide, require a special power cord, and cost about seven thousand dollars each to manufacture, but for the right kitchen they’d be perfect.

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Despite the obvious genius in these inventions, I’m far too busy mocking things to actually make something, so I’m giving these ideas away. That’s right, free. Are you good at makin’ shit, but not so good at thinkin’ up shit to make? Here you go—knock yourself out. If you make a few bucks, good for you.

viggo, iggy and me

We are a nation of immigrants, and we have made great strides toward inclusion, but there is still work to be done. Sorry–I thought I was running for office. My point is that, for too long, one group of Americans has been ignored despite its contributions, either marginalized or ignored. I’m referring, of course, to Danish-Americans.

A million and a half Americans have Danish ancestry, which amounts to over one half of one percent of the entire population. That means if you find yourself in a room with two hundred people, at least one of them has Danish roots. But where are the Danish pride parades? Why is there no Danish history month? I’ll tell you why—danskaphobia.

I blame the Swedes. And the Norwegians. And to a small extent the Finns, but mostly the Swedes, with their Swedish…meatballs, and their stupid gigantic stores filled with reasonably-priced furniture. Well let me tell you—Danish people make furniture too, and they don’t force you to assemble it yourself! Ever heard of ‘Danish Modern’? Ever bought an end table? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I live in Minnesota, where Scandinavian roots run deep. Yet even here, when most people hear the word ‘Danish,’ what do they think of? A pastry. Well, I am here to say that I am not a pastry—I am a Danish-American, and I think it is time for Danish-Americans to recognized and, yes—celebrated.

Eighty-nine thousand people in Minnesota can claim Danish ancestry, but are state offices closed on June 5th for Grundlovsdag? No! Why are there no parades to celebrate the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, during which Denmark regained control over parts of Schleswig and Holstein? It’s obvious—anti-Danish policies.

Try to imagine a world without Danes. And I don’t mean a world without Claire Danes, as horrifying as that would be. A Dane carved Mount freaking Rushmore, fer chrissake! You can thank Gutzon Borglum for that. Without Mount Rushmore, South Dakota would be known for the fact that Citibank bases its credit card division in Sioux Falls.

I could go on and on about Danish contributions to our daily lives. And I will. Ever thought to your self “I like cream in my coffee, and I wonder whom I should credit with patenting the first centrifugal cream separator?” That’d be a Dane. Football fan? How ‘bout the all-time leading scorer in NFL history, Morten Hedegaard Anderson. Twenty-five hundred and forty-four points, bitches. Ever listen to…music? Then you’ve probably listened through Jensen speakers—and yeah, Jensen was Danish. Wondered why Two and a Half Men is still on the air? You can thank Arthur Nielsen, creator of the Nielsen ratings. Wait, that’s not a good thing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “So Danish-Americans have done some interesting random things, but have they had any impact on politics?” I’m glad you asked. Janet Reno, first female attorney-general, ring a bell? What about Lloyd Bentsen, one of the most famous unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates in U.S. history? That’s right—Danish.

You want celebrities? You like heavy metal? Metallica’s founder, Lars Ulrich? Big ol’ Dane. Scarlett Johansson, Viggo Mortensen, Iggy Pop…if you’re looking for someone to crawl through broken glass onstage, or someone to play a Russian gangster onscreen, or someone to be…insanely attractive–you’re gonna want a Dane.

I’m guessing some of you use a Bluetooth for all those important business calls. Well, the first king of Denmark, the son of Gorm the Old, a guy named Harold Bluetooth! When you were in college, did you ever spend Spring Break in the Virgin Islands? Guess who sold the Virgin Islands to the U.S.—yep, that would be Denmark.

It’s important for Danes to hang on to our traditions. Traditional foods, like liver paste and beet sandwiches. Yum! When we raise a toast and say ‘Skol!,’ we need to remember that the word ‘skol’ comes from the Viking tradition of drinking from the skulls of our enemies. How cool is that?

As Danish-Americans, we have much to be proud of. We have two national anthems—obviously, everyone knows Der Er Yndigt Land, but there’s also the much more hummable King Christian Stood By Lofty Mast. And don’t forget—we’re in charge of Greenland. So, the next time you sit down to enjoy some rød grød med fløde in a Royal Copenhagen bowl, think of how much Danish-Americans have done for this country. We will be ignored no longer—Danish pride! Det er et lille land, men i det mindste, vi har universel sundhedspleje (We are a tiny country, but at least we have universal health care.)

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a birthday epiphany

Birthdays are funny things. I know, because I’ve had fifty-one of them. Frankly, I’m not sure I plan to have any others. Don’t panic–I still intend to get older, I’m just done counting birthdays.

Certain ‘big deal’ birthdays were less than ‘big deals’ for me. Eighteen—woohoo, I can vote and go to war!—yeah, even when I was eighteen I realized that tradeoff sucked.

Twenty-one—Yes! I finally can have some of that ‘alcohol’ I’ve heard so much about but never had the chance to try! True story: for my 21st birthday, mom and dad took me to LasVegas, because nothing says ‘You’re a man, now’ like standing in line at the breakfast buffet with your parents…it was like going to the prom with my Aunt Joan.

In theory, turning thirty is a big deal, because by thirty, you’ve become established in your career. Unfortunately, I had the distinct lack of foresight to choose standup comedy as a career, and never got the memo that the standup comedy boom would end in about 1992. Actually, turning thirty-four seemed more significant, because it meant I had outlived Jesus.

I think around birthday number forty, birthdays stopped being a big deal for me. Look, a good chunk of my adult like was spent creating crises for myself, yanking myself out of one crisis, moving across the country (‘cause that fixes shit), and…manufacturing new crises. You make enough bad choices in life, you start to feel like EVERY birthday is bonus time—“Really—I made it to forty-five? Yeah, that’s cool—but keep it down! I don’t wanna jinx anything!”

For this reason, turning fifty was a big deal, celebrated with all the requisite “I love you, man”s and “You look great”s. I was embarking on the second half of my life (yeah—half—like I’m gonna see a hundred…) with renewed vigor and a passionate lust for seizing the proverbial day.

Or, some days, I’d just be kinda tired. Sometimes, ‘seizing’ the day just sounds exhausting, and I’d rather…sneak up on the day. Herein lies the beauty of being post-fifty. I’ve given myself permission to NOT do anything. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been non-productive before, non-productive on an Olympian scale–but it always looked like I was busy doing shit. It was always in the guise of “Things are really crazy right now, so that’s why I haven’t been able to do any of those things I should have been doing.”

Then I figured, “What if I just stopped being a crazy person? Might that possibly make my life, in fact, easier?” Turns out, now that I’m not trying so hard to ‘get my life together,’ I’m actually getting my life together. I’ve actually come to the conclusion that I may not have enough time to finish every project, avenge every injustice, and fix all my broken pieces, and I’m cool with that.

It’s like with anger. I’ve been righteously indignant about one thing or another since high school, when I refused to smile for any of my yearbook pictures because I felt smiling ‘on cue’ made it fake and I wanted to have integrity and blah blah blah. I think, looking back on it, I may have been pretty tedious as a teenager. And my mom wasn’t happy that the yearbook she paid for included at least ten pictures of me looking like I’d won The Most Miserably Unhappy Student trophy.

But though I still feel strongly about what I believe, what used to be a rolling boil is now down to a simmer on the burner of life. I still Rage against the Machine sometimes, but I’m just as likely now to try to understand the machine or, more likely still, ignore the machine entirely and focus on my little corner of the world. Besides, getting existentially peeved at the world has not, apparently, changed the world.

Anger, like youth, is wasted on the young. The girlfriend and I were watching some video by some band of angry twenty-somethings, screaming their angry lyrics about how angry…something made them. I think the song was called “Paid My Dues.” You’re in your twenties! What dues, exactly, have you had to pay! You’ve had to endure…sitting quietly in a classroom? Oh, the inherent cruelty of it all!

Look, you PBR-drinking, soul-patch-sporting, doc marten-wearing whiners–the world could not possibly have fucked you enough yet to warrant this much bile. Why don’t you guys take your girlfriend to a movie at the mall, play a little pick up basketball to blow off steam, and then write some songs about how, at your age, life is pretty fucking cool if only because you haven’t had enough time yet to piss away any opportunities or burn any bridges!!!

Now at my age, I’ve seen enough of the cosmic crapstorm to feel justifiably angry—I can now emipirically prove that some shit ain’t fair. But here’s the bitch about aging—by the time you have enough evidence to make a case for how evil people can be, how unfair the government is, how wrong the system is… you’re just too damned tired.

But I am not by nature a cynic. I believe there are younger folk out there willing to fight the good fight (and young enough that they don’t use the word ‘folk’—jeez!). Kids who are all hormones and hyperbole, who will take up the banner of protest. And that’s as it should be. But as I keep adding numbers to my age, I think I’ll find a comfortable chair and watch some of the fighting from the sidelines.

As you get older, you realize that your body should have come with some sort of extended warranty. At least for the factory parts. Beyond the obvious design flaws (the knee? Hello? Little extra padding would have been nice…) there’s the planned obsolescence—every part of me that moves now is either stiff, or it aches. If I can move it or bend it, it probably hurts. But in the spirit of making nice with Old Man Aging, I’ve have found some perks to being ‘of a certain age.’

I no longer feel obliged to try new foods, or new ways of cooking foods I hate because it will broaden my horizons.  I hate brussel sprouts, and I don’t care if you dip them in chocolate, deep fry them, coat them with maple syrup and serve them on a golden plate, underneath, they are brussel sprouts, and I believe they were not meant to be eaten.

I am OK with wearing pajamas during the day, and if I have to leave the house, I’m OK with just pulling my sweats over my pajamas. When you’re older, it’s all about easy-on, easy-off.

I can now convincingly pull off the ‘shaking your fist at the heavens’ gesture if I get pissed.

When I process the pros and cons of aging (CON: things don’t work like they used to; PRO: you’re alive to bitch about things not working), I realize the number itself is the problem. Hence, I will acknowledge no future birthdays. I’m done counting. I made it to fifty. I’m in bonus time. But I’m not gonna say I’m fifty-one, or fifty-seven, or sixty-eight. From now on, when asked my age, I will simply respond, “I’m at least fifty.” It’s accurate, but it avoids all those negative connotations associated with being ‘over fifty.’

You kids out there—keep on yelling. Just remember the old adage—What doesn’t kill you, weakens you so it’s easier to be killed the next time. L’chaim!

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you don’t look peevish

I’ve never catalogued all of my pet peeves, but I have quite a collection. Having pet peeves is great for killing time—sorta like having an actual pet, but with no cleanup, or having a hobby without having to buy glue and construction paper.

Most of my peeves relate to language. Now, I’m not saying you should follow the Chicago Manual of Style when you’re writing a casual email. And I understand that language evolves (see, I started that sentence with a preposition—I’m a rebel!). But let’s not give up the fight entirely and just slide lazily into some hundred-and-forty character morass of poorly chosen words and misused phrases.

A small step would be for people to stop using the word ‘literally’ when they mean ‘metaphorically.’ I swear to My Vague, Nebulous Concept Of What God Might Be If There Is A God that if I hear one more person say something like ‘My head literally exploded’ my head will figuratively explode.

I’ve been a nitpicker of words for years. I remember as a teenager being annoyed by Neil Diamond. Granted, there are many reasons to be annoyed by Neil Diamond, but specifically, how can an otherwise competent songwriter write the line ‘songs she BRANG to me.’ You know, I could be making love with a supermodel on a private beach with Neil Diamond THERE in his jumpsuited glory singing that song to us directly (hold on to that mental image), and at the word ‘brang,’ it would be game over.

With the internet, I haven’t used the print version of a dictionary or a thesaurus for years, and I’m fine with that, but I’m pretty sure Roget is turning over in his grave (see also: crypt, mausoleum, catacomb, sepulcher…)

It’s amazing to me how blasé we’ve become toward technology. Like being able to access most of the entire world’s history and collected knowledge in my apartment on something I bought for five hundred bucks at Best Buy. And yet how many of us just bitch about how long it takes for Facebook to load?

You kids today. I realize that’s what I sound like—the old guy who says ‘You kids today.’ I just think people take for granted the amount of mind-blowing shit we can do while sitting on our couches.

Although I’m hardly a Luddite, I’ll admit that some newer technology I just don’t get. Like the whole Wii thing. A friend invited me to play Wii (the Wii? on the Wii?) and after a spirited ten minutes of beach volleyball, it occurred to me that ‘playing sports’ by pointing a wand at the tv is wrong on two levels—it requires standing and waving your arm around, thus defeating the purpose of video games, and yet all it requires is standing and waving your arm around, defeating the purpose of exercise. I worry that a generation will grow up not knowing that tennis can also be played outside.

Some tech things I’m just a little late getting to. For instance, I recently got DVR (a DVR? the DVR?) and I gotta be honest–the first few times I used it, it felt like I was employing sorcery. I can rewind a show while it’s being broadcast? Why, this is preposterous! I’ll end up altering the space-time continuum!

I worry a lot about altering the space-time continuum, which is why I don’t go back in time. The main reason I haven’t gone back in time is that I’m a klutz. See, every science fiction story I know explains very clearly that if you DO go back in time and change anything, disastrous things will happen. Well, I’m such a klutz, I would inevitably trip over something or knock something off of a shelf that would cause some sort of butterfly-effect chain reaction and then we’re all living in bunkers as drones to our Martian overlords.

Also, if I were able to go back in time, I don’t exactly have the skill set to ‘blend in’ in another era. My pottery and cobbling skills are marginal at best, and ‘being funny’ just doesn’t seem to be something with which you can barter.

It makes me wonder what place there was in primitive society for the funny guy. Even in the era of cavemen, there had to be that one guy. You know, the guy who would change a cave drawing so that instead of reading ‘”Og killed a mastodon” it reads “Og had sex with a mastodon.”

I might have enjoyed being a funny guy in the Middle Ages. If you think about it, court jester was probably an easier gig than doing standup in a bar—you really only had to make one guy laugh. And, if the king wasn’t digging my act, I could always become the village idiot.

I wonder what comedy in the future might look like. With the right technology, maybe one day you’ll be able to download a comedy routine consisting entirely of jokes that only you understand into a chip in your brain, while nanobots deliver the equivalent of two drinks to your bloodstream and then you can virtually heckle yourself.

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i’m your boogie man

Lately, it seems my mind is set on ‘shuffle.’ Which would be fine, if it were like iTunes and all the ‘tracks’ playing in my head were actually favorites. But no, my current playlist consists of:

“(I’m Too Old) To Find A Job”

“My Hip Hurts”

and, for some inexplicable reason,

“Boogie Oogie Oogie”

I realize only that last one is a real song, and that’s too bad. Incidentally, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” represents one of the three lowest points in Grammy Award history

1. (1979)—A Taste of Honey (of ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie’ fame) is awarded the Best New Artist Grammy—also nominated that year? Elvis Costello.

2. (1989)—Jethro Tull is given the award for ‘Best Heavy Metal Album,’ because nothing represents pure Satanic evil and teen rage like a forty-two year old guy standing on one foot playing the freaking flute.

3. (2009)—Violating all the laws of God and man, the Jonas Brothers are allowed to perform with Stevie Wonder.

I thought of all this because I don’t just wake up with a song in my head—no, I’m so ADD I get entire setlists stuck in my head, and this morning I woke up thinking of all the songs I could remember with the word ‘boogie’ in the title (in case you’re curious: ‘Boogie Shoes,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Boogie Fever,’ ‘Boogie Wonderland,’ ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman,’ ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Blame It On The Boogie.’

Now I understand that these aren’t the deepest musical sentiments ever expressed, and it has been a few years since I put on my ‘my my my my MY boogie shoes,’ but I think these records actually point to something profound (WARNING! CRACKPOT THEORY AHEAD).

Follow my logic here. All of the above boogie-centric songs charted between 1974 and 1979, and though my late teen years had their share of global issues and hotspots, I don’t remember ever, for instance, worrying about a worldwide economic collapse or crypto-Islamic terrorists. You wanna know what I remember from the news in the seventies? Lines at gas stations were long.

My point is, there have always been bad scary things in the world, but now fear is an inextricable part of the cultural fabric, and I believe this may be because nobody is writing songs about the boogie anymore. Or boogieing (sp?), or other boogie related behavior.

All I’m saying is that when disco was a part of the musical landscape, we weren’t involved in two wars. Coincidence??? I’ll even go so far as to say that disco was a great cultural equalizer, because almost everyone looked stupid dancing to it.

There was a popular t-shirt when I was in college that said “Fuck art–let’s dance.” I’d like to expand that sentiment to “Fuck politics—let’s dance.” Because when I read about a Christine O’Donnell, or a Glenn Beck, sometimes I think maybe they just need a little boogie in their sad, tightly-wound, attention-starved lives.

So much of what passes for discourse and debate today is just anger dressed up in a suit. Maybe if the Tea Partiers would swap their Revolutionary War garb for a white polyester outfit and just dance a little–blow off some steam–maybe after that, both sides could get together and talk about the issues like adults.

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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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