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.