Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Empty Nesters

Last Thursday, we shipped the kids off to Arizona with grandma for the weekend.  Excited to have house to ourselves, KT and I took Friday off work.  We had no plans, no commitments and no itinerary for three days.  It was awesome.  That being said, by Friday at 10:00, we were bored.  Determined to make the most of our time, we hatched the brilliant plant to make grape jelly using the concord grapes that have been growing like Audrey Two from Little Shop of Horrors for a few years in what used to be our garden (we now prefer to call it "native habitat").  We researched recipes and realized we needed a sieve to continue our project.  Determined to do this on the cheap, we set off to the local thrift shop to see if we could score one.  This was convenient, as the liquor store was right next door and I was already several hours late of a buzz considering the whole three day weekend thing.

So, after determining there wasn't a sieve, we decided to make our normal rounds through the store.  KT meanders through clothing, knick-knacks and pillow cases (?) while I flip through the t-shirts and check out the books.  When I was halfway through the book aisle, KT came bounding towards me, heels kicking high and arms flailing.  "OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD!  I found an EMMALJUNGA!  You HAVE to come look at this!!!".  Intrigued, as I had not a clue what an Emmaljunga was, I followed.  Turns out an Emmaljunga is a baby stroller.  KT would have none of my less than enthusiastic reaction.  "You don't understand.  We HAVE to buy this.  You can't even buy these in the United States.  EVERYONE in Sweden has one and it's only $30!  We HAVE to buy this."

"But," I countered, "our children are grown.  We just sent them on a plane to Arizona.  We aren't having more children.  I don't see the need."  KT would not be denied.  "It can be for our grand-babies.  We can lend it to people.  I can clean it up and sell it.  It's Swedish and thus the most awesome baby stroller ever invented and we are buying it."  Case closed.  We loaded the stroller into the car and headed home.

Once home, KT set to work immediately, furiously scrubbing and polishing the stroller, shaping it up to the point that I had to admit it was a fine looking piece of machinery.  She then dove into internet research, proving to me that indeed you can't purchase an Emmaljunga anywhere in the United States and that they do sell for quite a bit more than we paid for it.  Humbled, I apologized for my hesitation in purchasing it and assured KT I would never question her in a thrift store again.  All was well with the world, we were at peace.

Flash forward a few hours.  I was diving into one of my new books while KT was in the other room, still putting the finishing touches on her new investment.  I was absorbed in my book, but became vaguely aware of KT humming or singing.  I wasn't alarmed, but found it peculiar as she isn't normally prone to these habits.  As it continued, getting gradually louder, I recognized the tune.  She was performing the music from the opening credits of Rosemary's Baby.  The creepy "la la laaa la, la la laaa" tune.  I had to investigate.  It was as bad as I thought.  KT was pushing the stroller around the room, eyes glazed over.  She was, of course, doing it merely because she knew I would freak, but it worked.  I asked, begged, pleaded for her to stop, but that only encouraged her.  "I miss my babies, la la laaaa, la la laaa.  Aren't you excited for us to be empty nesters?"  I knew my only hope was to ignore her.  Luckily, I'm pretty good at that. I went back to my book, gritting my teeth and pretending I wasn't disturbed.  In an inspiring display of determination, she continued the act for nearly 20 minutes.

Finally, satisfied the nightmare was behind me as the maniacal la la la had stopped, I ventured back into the room.  This is what greeted me:
Followed immediately by KT whining, "Paul, I miss my baybeeeees!!!!"

I truly fear for our future.  Oh, also, the damn birds ate our grapes, so the great jelly experiment was a flusher.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Naked Feral Cat

It's now been about 18 months since I started wearing hearing aids.  They're great and I wish I would have gotten them much earlier.  They make work, social situations and family life infinitely easier and have been credited with "turning down my asshole factor a bit" (I'll let you guess whom I'm quoting there).  That being said, my favorite moment every day is taking them out at night.  I'm essentially pressing the mute button on the world, and it is wonderful.  This moment usually occurs between 9:30 and 10:00 each night, when I have finally:
a) massaged
b) paid sufficient attention to
c) cuddled
d) liquored up or
e) all of the above
KT enough that she has stopped talking and has a fine line of drool hanging from the corner of her mouth.  Like one becomes dependent on glasses just a month after first getting them - despite not having worn glasses before - I have become dependent on my hearing aids and can hear absolutely nothing without them.  Like I said, this is a peaceful nirvana for me and I cherish the moments.  It can, however, lead to "situations" at times where it is imperative for KT to convey a message to me and my deafness makes it considerably difficult.  I tend to startle easily as I can't hear anyone not in my line of vision.  Additionally, when startled, I tend to jump and flail much like a Looney Tunes character.  KT, in her typical sensitive, loving manner, has likened me to a naked feral cat when I don't have my ears in. She cites the following two examples in justifying my new title:

1)  Last weekend I came down with a nasty head cold.  It timed itself perfectly so that it hit right when I got home from work Friday and proceeded to stay with me through the weekend, lifting just in time so I couldn't justify taking a sick day Monday.  Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, however, I was flat on my back, sniffling, sneezing and dispersing mucus like an oversensitive soft soap dispenser.  Friday night, KT and I had fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV, as per our normal protocol.  We sleep there for an hour or so until one of us gets uncomfortable enough to make the effort of getting up and heading to bed.  As a courtesy, the one who has gotten up will nudge the other and grunt out the word "bed" before trudging off.  The other will then usually follow suit.  This night KT was the one who woke first and decided to head to bed.  I had my hearing aids out and was soundly sleeping as she nudged me.  Following routine, I began instinctively rising to head to the bedroom.  Rather than sleepily shuffling ahead of me, however, KT immediately jumped into an admirable basketball defensive position and began boxing me out.  Confused and still mostly asleep, I attempted to move around her.  She quickly spun around held up her hand in the classic traffic cop stop position and yelled, "NO!".  "YOU!" (pointing at me now).  "STAY!" (pointing at the couch now).  "STAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY.  YOU STAY!"  I now had stirred sufficiently to understand that my sneezing/snoring/snorting had banished me to the couch for the night.  That was fine, I could understand her reasoning, but thought the theatrics of trying to train a feral cat were a bit excessive.

2)  Al and Audrey are at the stages in their lives where, despite still living at home, are gone often enough that it is not at all uncommon for KT and I to find we have the house to ourselves for the night and the following morning. It allows certain liberties that are convenient and run the risk of years of expensive therapy if the kids witnessed it.  In specifics, I'm referring to walking from the shower (downstairs) to the bedroom (main floor) without first getting dressed.  It's a small convenience, admittedly, but one which I never fail to take advantage of when I can.  A few weeks ago we had one such situation.  The kids were both gone for the night and we didn't expect them home until late the next afternoon.  So, Saturday morning, I got out of bed to shower with the full intent of making a naked journey to the bedroom to get dressed after.  KT was still in bed, drinking coffee and waiting her turn for the shower.  To her mild surprise, she heard the front door open and Audrey walk in with a friend.  As it turns out, they had decided to go shopping and Audrey was swinging by home for a quick change of clothes.  KT went to the kitchen to chat with them as I, oblivious, finished my shower.  When she heard the stairs creaking as I began walking upstairs, she realized the magnitude of the enormous life scarring event that was about to unfold.  She began yelling "PAUL!!!!  STOP!!!!!  DON'T COME UPSTAIRS!!!!"  I, however, didn't have my hearing aids in (they don't work well in showers), and heard nothing more than Charlie Brown's parents yelling "BWAH!!!!  BOP!!!!! MMOMP FLOM ROMMAIRS!!!!" This simply piqued my interest and I picked up my pace.  KT quickly realized the naked feral cat was loose.  Thinking fast, she ran to the top of the stairs where, by divine intervention, a basket of my clean laundry was waiting for me to put away.  She opened the door and began madly flinging whatever clothes she could grab quickest down the stairs, pelting me with a total of two pairs of shorts, thee socks and a flannel shirt.  The message was received, however, and I realized that it was probably a good idea to put some clothes on before going further.

While my natural inclination is to be offended by the comparison, I do have to admit that KT may, once again, be right.

Friday, July 12, 2013


If anyone questions where KT’s allegiances lie, let me offer the following brief story from the other night:

I was telling Audrey an amusing story from a book I am reading about a motorcycle gang in Sweden.  Instead of using the term “motorcycle gang” however, I was referring to them as “bikers”.  Audrey was having a difficult time following my story, but like a true hero, KT jumped in to explain.

“He means BIKERS, like this”, she said.  She then proceeded to straddle an invisible Harley, place her hands above her head (high handlebars apparently), put a “do me” look on her face and purred an engine noise while revving a fake throttle.

“He doesn’t mean bikers like him”  She then pointed at me, crossed her eyes, hung her tongue out of her mouth, shook her head like a bobblehead doll, and began pantomiming pedaling, looking much similar to someone in the first spastic, panicky moments of drowning.

Message received, honey.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dirt Naps

Today officially marks three weeks since I have been in a car.  Over this time span, I have biked 313.4 miles, bussed 50.4 miles and walked 18.9 miles.  The surprising thing I have learned during the course of this experiment is that it isn't the long trips that turn me into a cranky complaining mess.  Instead, it's the short little errands that are killing me.  I don't have a problem getting up early and riding into work or heading downtown for happy hour, but a quick trip to the liquor store or the bank seems like an incredible hassle.  Most likely it's a matter of perspective.  When going to work, I know I am going to be there for eight hours so an extra 25 minutes getting there isn't a psychological hurdle.  However, a five minute beer run turning into a 30 minute struggle has a tendency to (at best) make me grumble or (at worst) make me convince myself that I don't need beer as I have a five year old bottle of tequila and a nine year old bottle of creme de cacao in the basement and there surely must be a cocktail combining the two (there isn't).

So, anyways, with 10 days left, my biggest internal question is what happens then?  Will I continue to be less reliant on a car or will I slip back into old habits of automatically grabbing the car keys whether I am going to work or to the next door neighbor's house?  I honestly don't know the answer.  I'd like to think I will find a happy, healthy balance between the two, but I tend to work at extremes.  Meanwhile, some random thoughts:

 - SWASS season is most definitely upon us.  I'll let your imagination run wild with that.

 - Last Thursday was nearly a flusher.  I had taken the day off of work as Audrey was swimming in the State Synchro meet.  As she swam at 1:45, my plan was to enjoy my morning farting around at home before pedaling down to the U of M about noon.  A simple plan, but I don't work so well when things are that open-ended.  As I've mentioned before, I thrive on strict, orderly schedules.  I would be an amazing train conductor in Germany.  Occasionally, however, I will try to ease up and let things just happen.  So, I read for a while, watched Troll Hunter on Netflix (highly recommended), made myself some eggs and consciously avoided looking at a clock.  Finally, convinced the time to leave was near, I pedaled to the bank to grab some cash for the day.  It was on this 1.5 mile journey that I realized that I had made a mistake.  The wind was whipping at a good clip straight from the North meaning that the way to the U would be downhill and with the wind at my back but the uphill trek home would be an absolute bitch.  I quickly changed plans and checked a bus schedule.  I had six minutes to make it about 1/2 mile to the bus stop.  I sprinted out the door,  making it to the stop in time.  While catching my breath, however, I reached into my pocket to grab bus fare and quickly realized that I had only $20 bills.  So, I ran across the street to a gas station to get change.  Because I always feel like an ass asking for change without making a purchase, I decided to grab some candy.  I rushed into the candy aisle, picked up my usual Gobstoppers and headed for the register.  At the end of the candy aisle, however, a bright purple pack of Jolly Joes caught my eye.  I froze.  I was hopelessly stuck, unable to make the simplest decision on what kind of candy to buy.  Three minutes later, I let out a small whimper as I saw my bus go by while I was still holding two boxes of candy, completely unable to make a decision.  Now I had to wait for the next bus, arriving in 30 minutes.  I would still make it on time to see Audrey swim, but it would be much closer.

 In the meantime, I texted KT of my fate, whereas she made it a point to drive by the bus stop on her way to the U, honk at me and give me the finger.  I began reading my book while waiting for the bus, and continued to do so once I boarded.  I became so engrossed, in fact, that I completely tuned out where the bus was.  When seemingly everyone began getting off the bus, I naturally assumed I was at my stop (why wouldn't everyone be going the same place as I?) and hopped off the bus, never taking my eyes off my book as I was only two pages from a chapter break.  Once the bus pulled away, I finally checked out my surroundings and realized I had exited the bus several stops early.  Now I was in trouble.  I had a couple of miles to go and not nearly enough time to get there.  Shit.  As I was about to abandon hope and plan my apology/excuse to Audrey, KT and my parents who had come to watch, the heavens finally smiled upon me.  A block away I noticed a Nice Ride bike rental station.  I sprinted over, easily and quickly rented a bike and pedaled like hell towards the U.  As luck would have it, there was another Nice Ride station right outside of the Aquatic Center, meaning I could pedal almost to the front door.  I did so, slipping in to watch Audrey swim with three minutes to spare.  Needless to say, I have become a fan of the Nice Ride program.

 - One of the great things about so much bike riding is the chance to appreciate nature.  Oh Mother Nature, how I love thee

 - As I've mentioned earlier, we ditched cable in our house a few weeks back.  This wasn't an easy decision, as KT has never been shy about proclaiming her one true love to be television.  Regardless, we took the leap and I hauled all of our equipment in.  One day last week, we received a large box in the mail from Comcast.  Perplexed, I opened it to find a cable box.  As we had clearly just canceled our cable and returned our equipment, I was more than a little bit peeved.  I got on the phone ready to raise holy hell.  The very patient and kind representative informed me that because we had kept Comcast for our internet service, we were automatically entitled to one cable box at no additional charge, and that we would receive on demand services and a limited number of channels for free.  I was skeptical, but satisfied.  KT, on the other hand, was over the moon.  As she put it, "I loved cable so hard that I had to set it free.  But like any true love story, it returned to me."  Hard to argue with that logic.  At least until yesterday, when we got a terse letter from Comcast explaining that since we have canceled our cable service, we have exactly 14 days to return all of our cable equipment to them.  I give up.

 - One more bike story:  Wednesday night I went downtown straight from work to meet my brother for his birthday.  We decided to roll the dice with the impending storms and scalp tickets for the Twins game.  It was a good decision as the storms held off and we got quality seats for a great price.  When the game finished, thunder and lightning were getting nearer so I quickly said goodbye and headed for home.  About halfway home, the thunder and lightning was becoming pretty close and was quite spectacular so I decided to stop and try to grab a photo or two as it wasn't raining yet.  In retrospect, I should have heeded the words of the great philosopher Stevie Nicks who penned "Thunder only happens when it's raining".  No sooner had I pulled out my phone to snap some photos when all hell broke loose.  I was instantly drenched and being blown in every direction but home.  After a few seconds of panic, I soldiered on.  By the time I neared home, I actually was able to enjoy the moment, realizing in awe how rare of an occasion it is to be able to have a first hand experience of a powerful storm.  Okay, I'm full of shit.  It sucked.

 - Finally, dear old Maggie, our beloved lab is 12 years old this summer.  She has a giant growth on one side of her body, a mangled pus-ridden leg that she obsessively licks, cloudy eyes and severe flatulence.  And, we love her more than ever.  As walks have become too much of a burden for her, we have substituted simply sitting in the front yard with her as our nightly activity.   Each evening, she picks a spot in our flower bed and digs a little deeper and a little wider into the earth.  When she has worn herself out, she plops down in her ever deepening hole and takes a monster nap.  Maggie has never been an obsessive digger, which makes her behavior all the stranger.  The only logical conclusion KT and I can come up with is she is digging her own grave, preparing to take one final dirt nap.  I guess there are worse ways to go.

Monday, May 20, 2013


I have successfully made it through 10 days, 155.85 bike miles, 38.7 bus miles and 11.3 walking miles of the no car experiment.   I was worried about this past weekend as weather and commitments promised to make it challenging.  A quick recap of the past few days:

Thursday evening:  One of my crew at work is moving to greener pastures so we went out after work Thursday for drinks and a sending away party.  I had been informed many times by many people that operating a bicycle under the influence is illegal, the same as if you were operating a car.  Before leaving work Thursday, however, I decided to actually do the research.  Turns out it's not.  As a bicycle is not a motorized vehicle, it's not against the law to operate one while under the influence (here is your proof).  So, with new-found knowledge as my courage, I enjoyed the celebration.  As usual, I miscalculated how being 15 to 20 years older than the group I was with affects my tolerance.  I was soon feeling no pain, which the crew quickly picked up on and decided it would be fun to see how drunk they could get the boss.  I played along for a few shots and a few beers but then, knowing I had 10 miles in the dark to navigate, pulled the foolproof old man trick out of my hat.  I would keep drinking with them, I explained, but wanted to move the party to another bar closer to home so my ride wouldn't be so treacherous.  Elated that mission Get Boss Drunk was working, they quickly agreed.  They piled into vehicles, I jumped on my bike and we were off.  I let them get just out of site, turned a hard left and went straight for home, leaving the night to the young people it belongs to.  My pedal home wasn't bad, although I did notice a little swerve in my ride and I did end up walking my bike up a few of the big hills rather than risk an alcohol-induced tantrum halfway up them.

Friday morning:  Dear God riding to work hungover sucks.

Friday evening:  My first ride in the rain.  After turning down no less than five offers of a ride home from work, I strapped on my raincoat and pedaled off.  Within about three blocks of work, I came to the realization that a) my back pack isn't waterproof, b) neither is my raincoat and c) bikes have fenders for a reason.  Not having an alternative, I soldiered home through a mixture of precipitation ranging from light sprinkles to steady downpour.  Once I was able to accept the fact that I was going to get wet, I was actually able to enjoy the ride.  I arrived home, said my greetings and was met with hysterical laughter.  The explanation?  I had packed a pair of yellow basketball shorts for the ride home (sorry ladies, I have yet to give in and pick up some of those sexy biking shorts).  Turns out yellow isn't the best color for the sprinkles of mud that your tire kicks up straight to your backside.  I arrived home with a giant brown streak perfectly aligned with my ass crack.  For all those approaching me from behind on the way home, it most assuredly looked like I had taken a giant dump in my pants.

Saturday:  Audrey had her Synchro Regionals at Richfield Middle School (going to state!), starting at 9:00 and continuing the entire day.  Richfield would be a 19 mile one-way ride, which would have been doable but would have eaten up a considerable portion of my day.  So, I decided to make my first bus trip of the experiment.  Graciously, KT agreed to make the journey with me.  We got up far too early for a Saturday, loaded up backpacks and headed out to the bus stop, making a stop for coffee on the way.  It was an absolute downpour Saturday morning, which was fine for KT as she has a reliable raincoat and the foresight to pack a large umbrella and wear sandals.  I, on the other hand, am not so bright.  I wore my raincoat which has already proven faulty, used an umbrella purchased in an emergency in NYC which cost $23 and is the size of a portabella and wore socks and tennis shoes.  By time we got on the bus, I was a soaking wet, grumbling, complaining mess, in far contrast with the sunnier (disposition) and drier KT.  We rode the bus downtown, made a quick transfer and were dropped off a block from the middle school.  Which would have been really convenient had we not immediately bee-lined in the opposite direction when we got off the bus.  We realized our mistake after a only a block, however, and made it to the school in plenty of time to see Audrey swim.  The bus ride home was much more pleasant as the sun was shining and one bus took us from one block away from the school straight through and dropped us off three blocks from home.  We were so energized that we even hopped on our bikes to take Audrey out for a celebratory dinner when we got home (see Tijuana Donkey Show).

Sunday:  Sunday was intended to be a day to rest sore muscles and for the most part, it was.  We raced the weather and got some much needed yard work done and were ready to move our tasks indoors as the severe weather approached.  Then, however, I got a text from Audrey, who was at work at a local thrift store.  The text read "If you want a German soccer jersey for only $4.00, I suggest getting here now."  Audrey often sends texts like these while at work.  Last week, it was to KT and was for a pair of pajama jeans that just hit the shelves.  They are absolutely as sexy as they sound.  Anyways, as the rules of this experiment dictate, I must not skip doing things I normally would do if I were driving.  Would I drive through the rain for a chance at a cheap German soccer jersey?  Absolutely.  So, I strapped on leaky (I had by now named my raincoat) and hit the road.  My timing was absolutely perfect.  I left home immediately after a downpour and pedaled through light sprinkles for the two mile journey.  While in the store, I watched a torrential downpour flood the parking lot.  As soon as the rain let up, I quickly pedaled back home, beating the next wave of heavy rains and winds by about 30 seconds.

This morning:  I woke up to rain, but I didn't even care.  I have learned to strap my backpack on under my raincoat, which at least helps it remain somewhat dry.  I do take on the appearance of a turtle riding a bike by doing this, but as you have probably learned by now, I've long given up on appearances.  I actually enjoyed the refreshing rain on the ride this morning (the lack of wind helped).  At one point I even let out a Nic Cage scream and barreled directly through a puddle rather than ride around it.

Side note:  One thing I have learned through ten days:  I don't properly apply sunblock.  I ride West in the mornings and East in the evenings, meaning the sun (when out) is beating down on the back of my neck most times while riding.  As I got out of the shower yesterday, I was again met with uproarious laughter from KT (a pretty common theme).  She snapped this photo to explain why:
Ok, I guess I deserve that one.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Note:  Actor participating in a reenactment

I was in three confrontations on the ride to work this morning.  The blow-by-blow details:

Confrontation One
Location:  Bike path surrounding Columbia Golf Course
Nemesis:  Squirrel
The majority of my ride to work can be accomplished using bike paths rather than roads.  Using only roads gives me a bit of a straighter shot, but I enjoy taking the paths and the ride is much more scenic, not to mention serene.  The first path I jump on surrounds the Columbia Golf Course in Northeast Minneapolis.  Like any golf course, this one is jam packed with squirrels doing their squirrelly things.  I don't pay them much attention as they generally stay out of your way.  This morning, a squirrel was munching on what must have been a particularly tasty morsel on the bike path.  I fully expected the squirrel to wait until I was near enough to pose a formidable threat then scurry off the path, chattering squirrel cusses at me as I passed.  This squirrel, however, was not keen on giving ground to whatever it had found for breakfast.  Instead of preparing to dart away as I neared, it reared up and stared me straight in the eye, as if to say "Bring it".  Not to be intimidated by a squirrel, I barreled forward in the most unusual game of chicken I had ever been a part of.  At the last second, I caved and swerved left to avoid a collision.  Problem is, the squirrel had the same escape route planned.  As I swerved left, he jumped left.  At this point I shut my eyes, as any reasonable coward would do.  I immediately flashed to a tragic but inspiring story I saw on the news last night about a kid who is confined to a wheelchair after being attacked by a tiger.  As unfathomably awful as that must be, at least he can say a tiger caused his injury.  I was convinced I was going to have to live the rest of my life explaining how a squirrel had horribly maimed me.  Apart from the squirrel defying the laws of physics and changing the direction of it's leap mid-air, I can't explain how there wasn't an impact.  Shaken, I pulled over and looked back.  The squirrel was standing exactly where it started, guarding it's precious breakfast, staring at me in defiance.  It even started moving towards me again, as if saying "You want some more?".  I quickly pedaled away.

Confrontation Two
Location: University Avenue overpass
Nemesis:  20-something girl
On this stretch of my journey, the bike path lies on the left side of the road as it crosses the overpass spanning University Avenue.  In other words, although you are on a bike path, you are facing oncoming traffic rather than riding with it.  To make things more difficult, there is an exit ramp leading up from University Avenue which crosses the bike path.  Bikes have the right-of-way, as cars have a stop sign, but I have quickly learned that having the right-of-way is about as useful as being "only a foreign language short" of your college degree.  I spotted this nemesis early, speeding up the exit ramp with a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  I also noticed her looking sharply to the left, making sure her path was clear to take a right turn at the top of the ramp.  Not once did she glance to the right, where the bike path and I were coming from.  As no cars were coming from the left, the stop sign became optional for the driver.  Meanwhile, realizing she wasn't going to stop, I had taken action to make sure I wasn't going to get flattened.  I slowed down, but still made it a point to get close enough to reach out and give the side of her car a gentle tap as she sped by.  Had she not been wearing a seat belt, I'm certain she would have jumped straight out of her vehicle.  She slammed on the brakes and looked at me, turning a ghastly shade of white.  At this point, I panicked.  I didn't think past the gentle "I'm here" tap.  Rather than give her a wave or a gentle, "Please be careful", I instinctively flipped her the bird and rode away.  In retrospect, I feel bad about this.  KT has (rightfully) long ago broken me of the road-rage middle finger salute, so I'm not sure why it was my natural reaction.  Yes, she was in the wrong and could have killed me had I not been paying attention, but my childish admonishment probably just makes her wish she had.

Confrontation Three
Location:  Work parking lot, Quebec Avenue North, New Hope
Nemesis:  Canadian Goose
There is a small pond in front of my work building which perpetually overflows and occupies a small corner of the parking lot.  A number of Canadian Geese have begun squatting in this corner of the parking lot and, as they tend to do, become quite protective of their territory.  I generally steer clear of them and take the long away around the parking lot as I am filled with equal parts disgust and fear of this particular species.  Today, however, feeling emboldened from my previous dust-ups, I decided they would move for me.  I pedaled towards them, slowly but confidently.  One goose in particular took notice of me early, craning his/her neck and letting out a few sharp honks.  Undaunted, I ventured closer determined not to be bullied.  I was going to win this battle.  Once I got within about twenty feet, however, I noticed something that quickly turned the odds against me.  Standing behind my nemesis were several small fuzzy little shit-spewing geese.  This was a new parent, and pardon my french, but you don't fuck with a new parent.  Too late now to change my course, I sped up hoping to get past before the goose went on the offensive.  No chance.  Poppa or Momma Goose began hissing wildly and giving chase.  I screamed like a school girl and pedaled like hell, barely escaping with my life.  Problem is, I am now stuck at work as I am too afraid the goose is waiting to finish the job.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tijuana Donkey Show

I'm on day five of "the experiment", have logged 84.3 miles, am a little sore in the legs and posterior but in general good spirits and health.  So, let's talk about KT.  About 10 years ago, when I got my bike, we decided to pick one up for KT as well.  Much like mine, it sat in the garage collecting dust for the next several years.  About four years ago, I started to ride my bike more frequently, increasing it's usage each Spring/Summer/Fall every year hence.  KT, however, has been a bit more hesitant.  Last year, she used the bike exactly once, pedaling with me the 3/4 mile (round trip) journey to the liquor store.  As I've mentioned before, we live in Columbia Heights, so despite the short journey, a hill was involved.  It wasn't a large hill, or a very long hill, but we weren't half way up it before KT began quite vocally informing me that "her exercise muscles hurt".  She continued to quite vocally remind me of this, mixing legible English with prehistoric sounding grunts until we arrived home, upon whence she returned her bike to the garage and it sat undisturbed for the remainder of the year.

Fast forward to last week.  In preparing for my month of no car, I walked my bike down to the local gas station to put air in the tires.  As it is Spring, and hope springs eternal, I convinced KT to walk her bike down as well and fill the tires.  It was a beautiful Spring evening, one of the few and first nice evenings we have had.  So, after filling our tires, we strolled across the street and sat on the patio of our favorite Mexican restaurant for a few beers.  After an hour or so, we decided to head for home.  The restaurant is on a busy street, and on a particularly busy intersection of that street so we walked our bikes safely across the intersection before mounting them to pedal home.  Unfortunately, immediately after getting on our bikes, we were faced with a long, steady hill.  KT immediately balked, fluttering through as many excuses as she could find ("I didn't bring my helmet", "I've had two beers", "I feel like walking").  I was slightly ahead of her and about to give in to walking the bikes home when she flew past me, pedaling like mad and emitting a guttural sound unlike anything I have ever heard before.  I quickly jumped on my bike and caught up to her, doing my utmost to try to figure out if she was in pain or merely grunting for my theatrical benefit.  When we finally reached the apex of the hill, and she caught her breath, KT summed it up perfectly when she said, "I sound like a fucking Tijuana Donkey Show!"

Despite this, she made it, and hasn't completely ruled out biking for the year.  In fact, on Sunday she went so far as to purchase a helmet.  I wasn't with (I've sworn off Walmart again after the air pump fiasco), but Audrey was kind enough to document it for me.  Behold:

Katie buys a helmet

At the risk of over-explaining and diminishing the pure magic of this video, here is what happens:  KT discovers that, like most items in her world (clothes, helmets, bikes, etc), the Child size works best.  Not content, however, to simply find a snug fit and purchase, KT determines she must give the helmet a try.  She doesn't grab a bike off the rack, because that would just look crazy.  Instead she finds another more suitable mobile device and begins giving the helmet a workout.  It must have worked, as she has bought the helmet.  Biking world, it's on.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Cute Little Experiment Almost Ended Damn Quick

I woke Saturday feeling a little bit sore and a lot bit smug.  Work and back were not a problem on Friday.  I even had the energy to log another three miles that evening (although beer was waiting at mile 1.5, which is a powerful incentive).  The first omen that Saturday might be a bit more difficult actually arrived Friday evening.  Before heading out for whatever nefarious activities 17-years old do, Audrey dropped this bombshell on me:  "It's my turn to bring breakfast for swim practice tomorrow.  I want Brueggers."  KT didn't miss a beat, turning to me and saying "Well have fun with that Bike Man.".  Crap.  Brueggers is only five miles away, which isn't a big deal.  Throw in the factor of swim practice beginning at 7:00 AM, however, and it becomes a bit of an issue.  However, as per the rules of the experiment, I must say yes.  I was able to negotiate it down to a Cub run (much closer), but the early morning deadline was non-negotiable.  So, I was up at 5:45 on Saturday (see my previous post about allowing way too much time), biking to the grocery store for bagels (Audrey), coffee (KT) and ibuprofen (me).  I was back home at 6:15, a full 42 minutes before I needed to be.  As I had just been exercising, sleep was now out of the question and my day began.

As part of another grand experiment, we have decided to dump cable television and rely on Netflix and Hulu Plus (viewing suggestions welcome).  This was a relatively painless process (for me anyways - KT is the one who spent hours on the phone explaining that no, we aren't interested in merely downgrading, despite the fabulous deals you can offer us).  However, one of the stipulations of canceling is you must return your cable equipment to a Comcast office within a week of canceling.  Conveniently enough, our week deadline was on Saturday.  Even more conveniently, KT was working so the duty fell to me.  Turns out we actually had quite a bit of equipment to turn in.  A DVR (which was about the size and weight of Guam), five (yes, five, shame upon us) converter boxes, 47 miles of cords and five remotes.  My cute little Sierra Club (look at me!  look at me!) backpack wasn't going to cut it.  Neither was Audrey's old, considerably larger, school backpack.  In fact, the only thing large enough to haul the 34 pounds (I weighed it) of equipment was my gigantic hiking backpack, purchased about 12 years ago when I was going to hike the world and used exactly twice since.  So, I loaded the pack up, strapped in on my back, snapped it secure around my chest and waist and prepared to hit the road.  One problem - I failed to have the foresight to realize that strapping this gigantic pack on my back would make mounting my ride a challenge.  As the pack reached a considerable ways down my body, it made raising a leg over the bar of my bike impossible.  After four or five futile attempts and two near tip-overs, I finally figured out I needed to tilt my bike nearly parallel to the ground, put one leg over and then, with a quick thrust, kick myself upright.  I accomplished it on my first attempt, but probably should have charged admission to the several vehicles driving by who witnessed the slapstick.

Despite the problems, I was ready to roll now.  Or so I thought.  Turns out giant freakin' backpack causes another problem.  Not only does it extend low down my body, but it also tends to ride high, up past my neck.  Which would be fine except for the fact that riding that high causes it to interfere with my helmet, pushing my head to a position where I am able to only look down.  With extreme effort and severe strain, I am able to roll my eyeballs skyward just enough to command a view of the road three feet in front of me.  Off I go.  

Saturday was an incredibly windy day in Minneapolis.  Winds were steady in the 20-25mph range, gusting to near 40.  This sucks on a bike.  Add a 35 pound sail on your back and it becomes downright ebola-shitty.  My one saving grace was the Comcast station was five miles East and one mile South from home.  So, as luck would have it, I would be traveling with the wind while lugging the gear.  Despite nearly being thrown into the path of a car when a gale force wind struck me on the highway overpass, I made it to Comcast in good time and unloaded the cable burden.  Feeling cocky now that I was free of the weight and only had to stop for toliet paper on my way home, I contacted my brother to meet for lunch.  He was game and so I foolishly pedaled further East and further South to meet him halfway between where I was and his St. Paul home.  We met, had a few beers and a pizza, and got set for our journeys home.  I was fully aware that my ride would be difficult as I would now be bucking the wind but I was confident I could handle it.  My bike, however, had other ideas.  As I went to unlock it, I noticed my front tire was completely flat.  Luckily, I was prepared.  I had a spare tube in my backpack and a cheap pump I had just purchased at The Walmart for just such emergencies.  My brother (a much more seasoned rider than I) helped as we quickly got the new tube in place and began pumping.  And then we continued pumping.  And pumped.  And pumped.  Turns out the cheap Walmart pump was about as big of a piece of shit as you can imagine a $10 air pump from Walmart would be.  At one point my brother held the pump up against his face to see if he could feel any air coming out.  Not even the scraggly, pathetic attempt at a beard he has moved from the resulting effort.  Luckily, my brother had another solution.  Being the experienced biker he is, he had recently purchased an ingenious contraption which held a small canister of pressurized air that will quickly inflate a tire.  The canister is small, so it will work for one tire only before needing to be replaced.  He had never used it before, so began examining it, figuring out how to operate it.  Soon, I hear a giant PFFFTTTTTTT and see him violently shaking his hand.  Turns out the air comes out at a pretty violent clip and it is not advised to test it by blowing it onto your hand.  Lesson learned, he hooked it up to my tire and prepared to let it rip.  With an even louder PFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT! the canister shot about 20 feet across the parking lot and my tire remained hopelessly flat.  Ok, lesson number two learned.  We have to fully secure the canister to the tire before activating, not merely hold it on.  So, we retrieve the canister, fully secure it to my tire and let it rip again.  This time, I was fully prepared for the loud gush of air and was instantly dismayed by asthmatic pfft and silence that emitted from the ingenious contraption.  Out of air, out of luck.

So, now I am faced with a dilemma.  I am eight miles from home with a flat tire and the burden of a GRAND EXPERIMENT which is only in it's second day.  To give in this early in the game would be an embarrassment.  Too proud and stubborn, I begin walking my bike in the general direction of home, hoping to catch a bus (allowed) and audibly cussing my bike, the wind and anything else in the general vicinity.  After walking about a mile, I noticed a group of about seven or eight men standing in a circle smoking cigarettes and chatting in a language I assumed was Somalian or other East African dialect.  I also noticed that behind them was a tiny two car garage and several taxi cabs filling the parking lot.  I approached them and asked if by chance they had an air pump in their garage.  They stared at me politely but obviously confused.  Undaunted, I squeezed my tire to show them it's flatness.  At this point, they broke out in uproarious laughter and motioned me inside where they graciously filled my tire and refused anything more that a heartfelt thanks (big shout out to the taxi shop at 20th and Como near the U of M!).  Energized, I hop on my bike and head for home.  

My new-found enthusiasm lasted exactly one block, when wind and gravity reared their ugly heads.  I live in Columbia Heights, which I love, but the key word in this instance is Heights (geography nerd trivia - the highest elevation in the metro area is about six blocks north of my home).  So, I am inevitably pedaling uphill when returning home, no matter where I am coming from.  Combining uphill climbs and the winds of Hell made for a treacherous journey.  On one of the few gently sloped downward stretches I encountered on the way home, I conducted a brief experiment, stopping pedaling to let gravity guide me.  Wind 1, Gravity 0.  The wind not only stopped forward motion, but began pushing me backward.  I did make it home eventually,  but my legs were a gelatinous mess and my mood was considerably dour.  My cantankerous outlook only dimmed when I realized I had neglected to get toliet paper, one of the exactly two errands I was tasked with.  Grumbling, but realizing I couldn't neglect the obligation, I rolled off the couch, told my bike to go to hell and walked to the store, my legs screaming at me each step of the way.

On the bright side, I did survive and after a day of relative rest (only one quick two mile trip), I made it to work without much difficulty today.  I have apologized to my bike (I really should name her as she is becoming such a close aquaintance.  Again, suggestions welcome) for saying some things I didn't really mean on Saturday and we are back on good terms.  As for the wind, it will be a while before I speak to it again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Diamond Cutting Scabs

Good morning Minneapolis

Ride one is in the books.  I successfully arrived at work with only two minor miscalculations.

1)  I start work at 9:00.  I arrived at work at 8:00.  This isn't the first time I have biked to work - I did so fairly frequently last summer, so I'm not entirely sure why I thought I had to leave at 7:15 for the 8.91 mile (thanks!) ride from my home in Columbia Heights to the office in New Hope.  I blame my German heritage (Order!  Wir mussen Ordnung haben!) and Lutheran upbringing for my absolute anal-retentive insistence on never being late.  And by late I mean being only 15 minutes early.  I am currently making amends however by writing this and refusing to do any actual work until 9:00

2)  It is a beautiful sunny morning in Minneapolis (see photo above).  Deceivingly beautiful. I left home wearing a t-shirt and light wind shirt for my ride.  By mile four my nipples were as hard as diamond cutters (don't worry, I'll spare you photos - but I did take some).  I have extraordinarily small nipples.  When they get cold they tend to shrivel into unidentifiable dots on my chest.  KT, as she is wont to do, summed it best once when she said, "They don't even look like nipples, they look like two small scabs."  Anyways, lesson learned.  Anyone know a good place to buy nipple muffs?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How I (Hope to) Stop Worrying and Love the Commute

  I hate cars.  This is no secret to anyone who knows me.  More than anything, this can most likely be traced to the fact that I go into a complete meltdown tailspin anytime my vehicle makes a funny noise or (god forbid) a warning light comes on.  I freak out at the first sniff of any automobile issue and generally drive my entire family crazy with the giant storm cloud above my head.  I fully admit that this is irrational and that everything will be just fine and I'm acting like a petulant child, but I just can't help myself (medication please).  Even when our cars are running smoothly, I am gripped with crippling stress on each journey I take waiting for what I believe to be the inevitable collapse (again, medication please, illicit or non).

  In an attempt to ease my inner torment, I have decided to conduct an experiment. Beginning tomorrow, May 10th, I will attempt to not drive or ride in a personal motorized vehicle for one month. My only means of transport will be walking, biking or taking the bus/light rail (this is the point when all those not fortunate enough to have a car can rightfully label me an entitled jackass).  When I mentioned this idea to KT, she was supportive, mostly I assume because she is completely bored with my incessant bitching about cars.  She did have one caveat, however:  I can't use my grand experiment as an excuse to get out of things I would normally do.  In other words, if I promised to do the grocery shopping and it is pouring rain out, tough shit.  I really have no grounds to protest.  So, the rules are as follows:

1)  I cannot drive or ride in a personal motorized vehicle for one month
2)  I cannot neglect, cancel or delay engagements - whether they be social, work or other - because of my experiment
3)  I must not inconvenience others because of my experiment.  I must adapt my lifestyle/timeline, not expect them to adapt to me.
4)  I must document the experiment

That's it.  Sounds simple enough.  I'm excited about doing it, but can't promise the same level of enthusiasm if it's raining when I need to leave for work tomorrow.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Google is Even More Brilliant than we Thought

In my never-ending quest to become grumpier and less technologically advanced, I have decided that I am no longer interested in answering my phone.  No offense, but I simply don't like it.  Additionally, my phone has developed advanced stage Tourette's and is prone to unexplainable outbursts - especially dialing people at random.  Thus, I have become more and more removed from my phone and rarely have it on me.  Being a father/husband/co-worker, however, I do realize that occasionally people may need to get a hold of me.  Thus, a few weeks ago, I installed Google Voice to my phone.  Basically, what this does is transcribe the voicemails I receive and sends them to me via text and email.

Friday night, I was able to see it in action for the first time.  KT was at a work party which had the possibility of ending late and the potential of bad decisions.  I, having to work the next day, burrowed in at home for an eventful night of FIFA.  About 11, with no word from KT, I decided to turn in.  Before doing so, I took a glance at my phone.  I had a missed call from her at 10:40.  And, she left a voicemail.  Intrigued and a bit excited, I decided to use Google Voice to read what the voicemail said.  Here is the exact transcript:

Yes, hey. Hello. 5th. Hello Yes, Hello, hello, p, Hello Hi Paul, hello Hey, this is KT know, Hey Hi Paul,This. Hey, hey hey, hook. Bye. Hello, hello, hello Hey, had to here. But. Hello. Bye, hey hey tara atHello Mr. If you saw lot. Hey, hey hey hey. The Difference yo. Hello, We will hallways, hey okay.Hello going bye, hey hey. do. Well, I'll. Hey, call it think, hey Yeah, hey hey hello. Well, Well. Hello.Ohh. Hey, it's me Why. Hey bye hey. Just, ohh. He's I, hey. All goodbye and by and. 

Major fail.  Google Voice definitely is not the answer in my quest to avoid taking calls.  Concerned I may have missed an important message, I decided to listen to the voicemail.  Turns out Google Voice nailed it.  The transcript is exactly what she said.

Well played, Google Voice.  Google Translate, it's your move.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Old Dog Commits a Crime: A Six Chapter Picture Book

Maggie was born one week after 9/11.  She has been with us since October of 2001.  Like any lab, Maggie was a master thief when she was younger.  Turn your head for two seconds and the sandwich you just made and set down was gone.  She never, ever, missed an opportunity to commit larceny.  After all, she knew how to charm the jury and always got off with no more than a public shaming and two minute time out.  Maggie is much, much older now.  Her reflexes aren't quite as quick, but she still absolutely knows how to commit the crime.  Security cameras caught her in the act this morning.

Chapter One:

Suspect contemplates last remaining käramel roll (pretzel dough, caramel, salt, as good as it sounds) on the table.  Suspect notes käramel roll has been unattended for a period of more than 5 minutes.  Author's note: Anyone judging the fact that we ate käramel rolls for breakfast, the giant mounds of Lady Kenmore behind Maggie or the fact that we spent the morning watching The Inbetweeners is just jealous.  Suspect notices KT, Paul and Audrey engrossed in television and not focusing on käramel roll.  Suspect thinks käramel roll smells delicious.

Chapter Two:

Suspect, keeping one ear open to approaching authorities, approaches target.  Suspect confirms it definitely is a käramel roll and that there is definitely nobody watching.  Author's note:  I never claimed she was bright, only that she was a master thief.  Suspect decides this käramel roll must get in her belly.

Chapter 3:

Suspect makes her move.  In one swift twitch of her tongue, käramel roll is consumed.  Suspect becomes aware that perhaps she may have been noticed when she hears protestations to her actions, but can't quite confirm it yet as nobody has actually moved.

Chapter 4:

Suspect now is sure she has been spotted as someone definitely said, "what do you think you're doing, assface?" Author's note:  It's a term of endearment coined by KT and adopted by all.  Suspect decides that absolutely zero fucks will be given and she will finish the job anyhow.

Chapter Five:

Suspect, now apprehended, is really, really sorry and promises she will never, ever, ever do something like that again.  She claims temporary insanity caused by old age.  Jury buys her story yet again and suspect is released to her own recognizance.

Chapter Six:

Suspect, clearly struggling with a guilty conscience, shortly suffers major sugar hangover, and spends the next several hours struggling to ease her tortured soul.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Da Swedes

KT works at the American Swedish Institute, which over the past couple of years has undergone a major transformation and expansion.  It's a stunning expansion and the cafe has quickly and deservedly become one of the hottest eating spots in town. Consequently, I have been spending an increasing amount of time attending events at 2600 Park Avenue South.  From grand opening galas to royal visits (King Carl, Queen Sylvia and I had an engaging conversation regarding birch trees, but I digress), I have had the opportunity to observe and interact with numerous Swedes.  I've picked up a few observations.

1.  Science be damned, their genes are the dominatrix of genes.  Every high school science student can tell you that dark hair and dark eyes are dominant traits.  If a person with brown eyes and brown hair has a baby with somebody who is blonde and blue, the odds are that the children will have dark features.  For example, my dad has startling blue eyes and once upon a time had platinum blonde hair.  My mom, on the other hand, has brown eyes and brown hair.  So, as science tells us should happen (something about recessive genes or chromosomes or blahblahblah), both my brother and I sport the brown and brown look.  KT, and her dominant Swedish genes, weren't interested in science, however.  Both Al and Audrey popped out blonde and blue and haven't looked back.  They could be dropped in the Mother Country and immediately be indistinguishable in a police lineup.  Inexplicably, this seems to be the norm with Swedes rather than the exception.

2.  They have invented everything.  Within the course of a week, I will be informed or reminded countless times that the Swedes are responsible for inventing basically everything.  I cannot put on a pair of jeans in the morning without KT informing me that the zipper was invented by the Swedes and without them, I would be continually soiling myself as it would take hours to unfasten the cryptic puzzle of contraptions that previously existed in pants.  I cannot mention the name of a plant without being reminded that the Swedes invented the classification of botany and without them, all flora would simply be called "green things".  I cannot operate a computer without being reminded that without the Swedes, the computer mouse would not exist and computers might have just been a passing fad without them.  If I light a candle I am reminded that the Swedes invented safety matches and without these ingenious devices one in every four homes would be in cinders.  Additionally, it has been reported to me that about 50% of the population would be dead if not for the honorable Swede that invented the pacemaker.

3.  Swedes aren't "mean", they are "direct".  My Germanic sensibilities have a difficult time distinguishing between the two, but I have been assured by KT and others that there is indeed a difference.  So, if you were to spend hours painstakingly preparing a gourmet meal and a Swede's reaction was "I've had better", you shouldn't be offended.  They weren't being mean, they were simply being direct.  Similarly, if a Swede were to say "you are fat" or "wow, you're an idiot", you shouldn't feel insulted.  I have two perfect real-life examples, both courtesy of KT's Grandpa Marlin, whose parents were fresh off the boat.  The first time I met Marlin was when KT was pregnant with Al.  As KT introduced us, Marlin first words were, "How do you spell your last name?"  After I spelled it out for him, he responded, "Hmmm....German, eh?  Boy, you sure are a warring people."  Being we were just pups and I was the guy responsible for the giant bulge in his granddaughter's belly, I took it in stride.  Flash forward 20 years.  Grandpa Marlin is in town and we are having lunch with him at the American Swedish Institute.  KT introduces Marlin to a co-worker with the last name Marsala.  Marlin ponders the name for a while and then asks for the origin.  When informed that it is Finnish, Marlin pauses a second and says, "Well, at least it's better than Kruse".  Keep in mind, this is two children, two dogs, a cat and five homes after the first time I was introduced to him.  I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm not simply knocking up his granddaughter and running.  Later, when recounting the incident with KT (she didn't notice anything at the time), she explained that he was simply being direct.

4.  Norwegian things don't exist.  This one puzzles me to no end.  After all, just over 100 years ago, Norway and Sweden were one country.  Only by the good grace of the Swedes did they allow Norway to form their own independent country (that's how the Swedish history books explain it anyways).  Today, however, Norway and it's customs are as exotic to the Swedes as a lost tribe of the Amazon.  In social settings, when KT will respond to a query about where she works, inevitably lefse gets mentioned.  Sometimes it's the very next sentence, sometimes it is a few moments later, but it is without fail mentioned.  However, go to the Swedish Institute, say the word lefse and you will get nothing but vacant stares.  They have absolutely no idea what lefse is.  Or so they claim.  I'm calling bullshit.  I don't live in Canada, but I still know what a Labatt Blue is.  I find it impossible to believe that they don't know what lefse is.  Here is a more maddening example:  The Swedes love their lutefisk.  The Institute throws a giant party every year which revolves around eating loads of the slimy crap and washing it down with enough alcohol that you don't actually taste it.  The Norwegians eat lutefisk as well.  However, if you were to ask anyone at the Swedish Institute when the "loot-a-fisk" party is, the unanimous response would be "I have no idea what you are talking about".  See, in Sweden it is pronounce "loot-fisk".  It is the same disgusting inedible substance, spelled exactly the same, but the extra syllable the Norwegians add to the pronunciation make it undecipherable to the Swedes.  Again, I'm calling bullshit.

5.  Swedish women, once they reach a certain age (usually in their 50s), cease visible signs of aging.  I'm not sure how they do it (perhaps one of their famous inventions that haven't yet graced the rest of the world with), but the majority of Swedish women look identical from the time they hit their "age" until they die. This isn't an assertion that they all look alike, just that they retain their physical features for a freakishly long period of time.  Also, and perhaps related, they develop (or maintain?) the ability to be outstandingly flirtatious.  KT once came home with a birthday gift for me from a friend at the ASI.  It was a tiny wooden Dala horse with a note attached that said, "Paul - a lucky Dala for you.  Put this in your pocket and rub it and maybe it will grow."  Then there is Sigbritt who, upon learning I had arrived on bike, asked that I pick her up and give her a ride the next day.  Tempting as it was, I didn't and Sigbritt has not stopped asking KT when I am coming by on my bike to take her away.  Nothing makes me blush more than spending a day with the ladies at ASI. It's awesome and I am clearly developing a fetish which is probably a good thing considering what I married.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Revelations

Rather than resolutions, which I have long since abandoned, I tend to focus on revelations, as in "what did I learn in the past year?".  As I age, the list of revelations I mentally stockpile each January tends to dwindle, but I am still able to sit back in a bit of awe at some of the things I'm still learning each year.  Here are three that hit me this year:

1)  I may be losing a bit of testosterone.

This revelation came in October.  The day started out testosteroney enough - I played a semi-vigorous game of football in the late morning with the uber-elite Schlitz Sporting Club, followed immediately with a few beers while hanging in the park (just like high school!).  As we departed, I decided to go for a bike ride as I had been itching to check out the new Lowry Bridge (transit nerds give me a holla).  On my way, I happened upon Jimmy's Bar, a place where my buddy Danny and I often meet for meat raffle/pull tab/happy hours.  I wanted to guilt Danny for not showing up for football, so I pulled up to snap a photo of the sign to send him.  As I sat straddling my bike, clad in tight (for me, anyways) sweatpants, windshirt, massive bike helmet and snapping away on my phone, two gentlemen stepped out of the bar.  The two were of vastly different shapes (think Shaquille O'Neal standing next to Kerri Strug) but of equal shit-faced drunkenness.  I was into geeking out my photo, so I didn't really pay them much attention.  The bigger of the two fellas popped a cig in his mouth and ambled towards me, the little one close at his heels.  I, still focused on my photo, continued to pay no attention.  Finally, as the big fella put his thumb and middle finger together and snapped my helmet with considerable force, I was forced to give them notice.  I looked up at the guy (and it was up) and noticed his eyes were kind of off in two separate directions - not because he was born that way or had a horrible accident, but because the sheer amount of alcohol he had consumed had filled his massive frame to the point that is was seeping into his ocular cavity and forcing one of his eyeballs to the side.  I uttered an inquisitive "Hey?", to which he responded, "You rellly tink dat hellmuts gonna help you?".  Meanwhile, his buddy kept staring at his own shuffling feet and muttering "mmm-hmmm" over and over.  I, quite neutrally, replied "not really".  His quite logical response was "then why the fuck are you wearing it?".  He had me.  At a loss, I replied, "Because it look cool?"  My new friend thought a moment and said, "No, it makes you look" - literally a 30 second pause here - "fucking stupid!!!".  I wasn't quite sure how to respond, but didn't really need to, as his buddy, still staring at his fascinating foot shuffling, said "C'mon Dave, he ain't worth it".  After a ten second pause, "Dave" said, "yeah, you ain't worth it" and the two walked away.  Here comes the kicker:  Not until Dave told me I wasn't worth it did I realize he was looking for a fight.  The entire time I was thinking Yay!  New friends!  (Spongebob voice).  When I got home and relayed the magnitude of my misinterpretation to KT, her response was, "whoa...Low-T" (Apparently there is an informercial that airs in the middle of the night when our television is always on but rarely watched for a new drug called Low-T that I don't need to explain what it treats).  She may be right, but, Hey!  New friends!

2)  KT likes it rough

Late this summer, our washing machine began leaving giant brown smears on all of our laundry.  Nearly all of our light-hued clothing became blemished with sporadic giant poop looking stains.  We got by for a while by using the laundromat and Greta's place, but KT finally had enough and starting searching Craig's List for a new machine.  She found one rather quickly and, with her mother, went and sealed the deal, bringing Lady Kenmore into our life.  Lady Kenmore is not the name we have given her, but rather the name the marketing geniuses at Sears, Roebuck & Co. had decided to name their washers in the 1970's.  This machine is a giant.  Weighing in at a cool 3000 pounds, and a beautiful olive in color, the Lady Kenmore is truly a classic.  Each washing cycle the Lady Kenmore will use enough water to drown a small village and she will severely punish your clothing for being dirty.  The Good Lady Kenmore doesn't do delicate.  She beats the living hell out of your laundry, striking a paralyzing fear in our clothes of ever being dirty again.  Lady Kenmore has destroyed more than one of Audrey's sweaters and stretched out underwear to the point of no return.  Audrey hates her, Al and I fear her, and KT (of course) is head-over-heels in love with the Lady Kenmore.  She has never been happier with the sheer industrial-strength smell and look of our laundry.  More than once, I have caught her purring "Laaaaadyyyy Kenmore" to the machine as she pulls the clothes out.  It's a bit alarming, but if a few ruined items of clothing keep her happy, I'm willing to pay the price.

3.  Cats make noise

I've been progressively losing my hearing for several years and a lethal combination of stubbornness and ridiculously restrictive insurance policies had prevented me from ever taking the necessary steps to do anything about it.  Finally, in March, I made an appointment with an audiologist at the University of Minnesota (a wonderful place, by the way).  An exam showed my hearing to be at about 40% of normal and down to 20% at high frequencies.  I knew my hearing was bad, but was surprised by exactly how bad it was. I was fitted with hearing aids, have been wearing them since and regret I didn't do this 10 years earlier.  The most amazing part of hearing again for me has been the cat.  Until getting my hearing aids, I never realized that our cat made noise.  I knew in theory that cats could meow, but I always assumed that only happy cats meowed.  Uma is not a happy cat.  She is a constantly cranky asshole who wants nothing more than to confuse the hell out of us.  She will go from "love me" to "I will kill you in your sleep if you ever touch me again" within seconds.  She has tortured the dog with sneak attacks for so long that poor Maggie is a shivering paranoid mess.  It never occurred to me that Uma was actually making noise when she bared her teeth at me.  My shock upon hearing it for the first time was such that I frantically called KT into the room, convinced I was going to have to Google "How to dispose of a dead cat".  It took quite a bit of convincing from KT to assure me that Uma has always meowed like that and wasn't saying her final "Go to Hells".  Other things have caught me by surprise (our coffee maker beeps when the coffee is done!) but I still crack up every time Uma talks.