Friday, October 31, 2008

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You a Special Annoucement ...

Just knock it off with this whole "socialism/socialist" accusatory bullshit. I am so tired of every ignorant fucker in America being pandered to by some high-minded, aspirant politician who wants to insult another politician by labelling him/her a socialist, or some idea or policy as socialist or leaking verbal effluent such as, "America is too good for socialism." Jesus-F-ckin'-Tap-Dancin'-Christ-on-a-Pogo-Stick -- you'd think Joe F-ckin' McCarthy himself had risen from the dead and is in our midst. Get off it you dumb fuckers. And the rest of you dumb fuckers who don't understand the first thing about "other" economic theories get a damn book and attempt to educate yourselves. The only thing this is doing is proving to the rest of the world that we, as a nation, have done little more than bully the world and consume way more than our fair share of trinkets for the past 60 years. Because this kind of talk spouting from assholes and their entourages, leaders in our land nonetheless, is embarrassing proof that we sure as hell haven't progressed intellectually as a nation.

The only Red Scare that strikes fear in my heart is the image of an election night map overrun in rouge; the pathetic thought of some washed-up, fear-mongering windbag dragging his flabby, cancerous cheeks and the haunches of a psycho-fundamentalist hockey mom onto the steps of Capitol Hill. Take that, Joe 6-Pack.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Damage Control

If you were there you know -- Flecktoberfest did not disappoint. I think we funneled around 90 guests through the house and yard over the course of the party which ran from 4pm until 5am. Don't ask me how I remembered to look at the clock. We were gifted 3 bottles of single malt, a bottle of Surly Darkness and various remnants of 6 and 12-packs. In addition were the countless consumable goodies. These did little good, however, as the house was almost completely devoid of food the next morning. EVERYTHING we set out got eaten.

There was a generous and strong love vibe in the air -- plenty of hugging and a little kissing. Great jokes, big laughs and lots of fun were had by all especially as hijinks like the all-male topless Twister game hit full effect. By the end there was gratuitously good natured nudity and harmlessly rampant debauchery of all kinds. If you see photos they probably have not been altered in any way. It was epic -- from the beginning to the very end. Thanks to everyone who attended and joined in or at least tolerated the craziness. We have awesome friends who've made our house feel that much more like a home. This was the best Flecktoberfest ever.

More autumnal oddities are on the horizon as the Homie Fall Fest rides through the T.C. this Saturday. Oh yeah. We'll just test out this phrase: "Honey, I'm taking off for a Halloween party on Friday night. Be back on Sunday."

Here's some nice political humor (special thanks to my friend, Bear, for this forward). Take a break from the last minute campaign shenanigans and mudslinging to give the letter below a read. And, as always, be well. Don't forget to vote early and often next Tuesday.

A Letter to the Red States

Dear Red States:

If you manage to steal this election, too, we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation's fresh fruit, 95% of America's quality wines, 90% of all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and soybeans (thanks Iowa!), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech, UCLA, Berkeley and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92% of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61% of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.

Finally, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace out,
Blue States

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Something to Chew On 'Til I Update My Blog For Real, NOREN!

Hola, Friends and Disparagers of All Things Right and Holy,

I am sorry I am busy having a life. It happens I hear. I love you all. Really I do. I'll take this opportunity to say (if you haven't already been invited) you're welcome to come to our Flecktoberfest celebration this Saturday 10/25. It's kicking off about 4pm with family friendly frolics and digresses from there until no one is left standing. There'll be lots of beer, fire and good eats. You may have bobbed for apples but have you ever bobbed for PBR? You should give it a try. And you can -- this Saturday at our house. Now look, I'm not gonna leave my address on this here blog. I will say we do have convenient access to bike paths in the 6-1-2. Pop me a comment with your email if you're up for attending and I'll supply details. Word.

The only other big news is my recent decision to support McCain/Palin. I just couldn't deny the inevitability of it all once I was availed of this campaign poster:

I can't imagine life without an impending apocalypse, can you? May the woman known to some as "god" help us all. Thanks to Aaron for the image. He was the only party guest zealous enough to show up for Flecktoberfest exactly one week early. And he brought friends even.

Get thee somewhere fun. More news soon.


Patch O'Houli-Fleck

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brian!

To the man who is alternately known as Dad and Papoose, congratulations on helping create the woman of my dreams AND winning the costume award at the 2008 New Belgium Chicago Urban Assault Ride. For a photo, if you dare, he's on the left.

Let's make many more memories, shall we ...

Yer Son-in-Law

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Family That Bikes Together ...

Shortly following the escapades of my trip to Japan back in August (literally a day and a half after arriving home) we loaded kids and bikes into the trusty Subaru for a drive down to Preston MN. There we joined April's parents, sisters and our nephew Julian for a long weekend of riding and relaxation.

The riding was good. Those who know me know that I tend to vacillate on the topic of bike paths. The experience of riding paths can, after all, be a blessing and a curse. If you're looking for solace or quiet enjoyment of river valleys and countryside sometimes the bike trail system is the wrong place to be. Still, paved trails that are relatively flat and very easy to navigate are accessible by folks of all skill levels. And that's not a bad thing for kids, families with Burley trailers and the like. Or folks who look as if they haven't been on a bike since they were kindergarteners -- the ones who weave and bobble and generally don't know WTF a bell dinging from behind and a polite 'On your left' means. At least they're on bikes and who knows, maybe they'll be hooked. But I digress.

A nice shot of April and me (and Sylvia, as usual trying to butt into the picture) in Lanesboro.

Willa is belly up to the table and ready to chow down.

As far as bike trail systems go, the Lanesboro/Preston/Harmony area is top notch. Even though the paths in and around the towns are frequently congested with gawkers, the outlying portions of the trail can make you think you're really out there. Often on the way to another town one sees few if any other cyclists.

Hannah gliding through the bluff country of SE Minnesota.

Willa's toothless grin. How can you not smile, too?

Stops at city parks make cycling day trips way more bearable and enjoyable with the kids.

We all shared a house in Preston, so that was a bit challenging for a privacy loving introvert like myself. Still, it was great to spend time with the family and to watch the kids play together, to eat communal meals and view the opening spectacle of the Olympics on the satellite TV. (Cable? You're lucky to get a cell signal in Preston.) I'm not a fan of the Olympic games, marching bands, dance troupes, acrobats, Shriner parades, etc. but even I was blown away at China's efforts in the ceremony. Now, if they could apply one-tenth that diligence to their human rights policies.

Group photo around the fire.

Julian was very proud of the knife I bought him on the trip. I was busy fixing a flat.

In all this trip was another excellent adventure. And like many trips you realize how special it was a couple months later when you go back and view the photos again. I have to send out a hearty "thanks" to Dad and Sabra for keeping the family bike vacation going for the fourth year in a row.


Why am I prattling on about this stuff? I dunno, maybe just 'cause I haven't had much time to prattle of late. I've been traveling a lot -- gone more than 3 weeks out of the past 8 -- to places that were another part of the world or felt like they ought to be another part of the world. Upon my return each time, inevitably Willa has achieved some new developmental milestone and Sylvia's personality has grown by leaps. All the while April has been holding it all together on her own, being the amazing mother and resilient, cheerful partner she is. She never seems to balk when I announce my next big trip. Thinking about the family and these happy times together has been a constant source of comfort while I'm away.

Things have also been a bit heavier lately. We've been in our new home long enough to have discovered a few of the dark patches of its underbelly, long enough to realize we gotta work at this thing. And that's cool -- we're not afraid to work. But the news headlines hardly make one feel at ease about supporting a family and retaining faith in a positive future for our kids, for our nation and its people. The illusion of comfort is just that, an illusion, so I try not to stake too much on anything especially a philosophy of worry and anxiety. The pettiness of an election year, the big money that runs our government, financial woes, folks getting kicked out of their homes, "our nation's" war, the cries of petroleum dependent fools ... these things add up. That's not to mention how someone like Sarah Palin can be regarded as remotely qualified for high office in our country. Is anyone else losing any sleep over this shit? I think you are.


Last night I took a break from the endless hours I've spent in the garage developing my personal microcosm of order and shifted attention to the spare room in our house. It also will function as our office. Problem is it looks much the same as when we unloaded boxes back in July. When we moved we chucked all our files in banker boxes and weeded out nothing. I began separating the chaff last night. Foolishly perhaps, I started with the box that contained folders full of old letters from friends and family, some photographs and cards. I guess I would have had to go through it at some time.

I pulled out a piece of kid art that had the name 'Dustin' written across the top. It was a photocopied tree trunk that had colored paint splotches for leaves applied by a very young hand. The person, my nephew, who painted it is a young man in his 20s now, a young man who was indicted a few weeks ago for attempted manslaughter because he stabbed another man at a bar. I pulled out another hand-drawn piece of crayon art, immaculately colored within sketched pencil lines. The scene was a backyard with a fence and apple tree. A cat leisurely walks the fence top while jolly worms harvest some fallen apples strewn among bright flowers. A dog tied to a house seems unperturbed. The rays of a yellow sun shine down upon all. My niece, Angel, who drew it is now in her mid 20s, a single mother who married early. Her baby was taken at birth because it was so premature it needed care in a different city. I've never shaken that image of profound separation from my mind. In the same folder was a one page short story written by my oldest nephew, Chris, when he was in grade school. The essay was about Sam the cat and how great he was and the pain Chris felt when he found out Sam had died. Chris is now the father of two. His marriage to a hometown sweetheart went south a few years ago and he was left with the kids. I haven't heard news of him lately.

Different lives. Different times. But I remember holding all these young people when they were infants the size of Willa. I remember seeing them grow. I grew myself and moved from town and acted out dramas of my own. Somehow I thought to hold onto a few little momentos. Funny how things swing 'round.

I quickly flipped through my old letter file and discovered a copy of the letter I sent to my father in January 2000 telling him I no longer desired his manipulative and destructive presence in my life. He passed away a few years ago. We never really reconciled any of our problems. I think I'll never understand how he thought and said many times we had such a "close" relationship. There was a photo of my mother and her last husband taken at least 15 years ago when she still had a spark in her eyes and the flush of health and happiness in her skin. Her health has not been stable for many years now. I spoke with her on Sunday and she told me her doctors are relatively certain she's developed Alzheimer's disease. She'll undergo tests in a couple of weeks to assess how advanced it is. She's living in Memphis with my youngest sister. We're planning a visit, with the whole family hopefully, sometime around the holidays. My mom who sacrificed much of her health for the benefit of many others can't remember her grandkids' names or even where she is a lot of the time. Yeah, that's kinda heavy and I have to admit I had no fucking clue how to talk to her about it when she got me on my cell phone Sunday morning fresh from the frenzy of a tradeshow in Las Vegas. Yeah, that's kinda heavy.


So, why do I prattle on about family stuff and gatherings and bike vacations? I commemorate, I suppose. I can go on about my favorite bike and the short list of epic rides I've completed on it. I can tell you the merits of my favorite shop tool or kitchen knife or gadget du jour ad nauseum. I can extrapolate the beauty of my favorite thing or possession that has lasted me a decade or more. Some people might actually like or appreciate that. But I think I have always been and will always be a poet at heart. I'm not trying to imply one can't wax downright poetic about material things. However, I return throughout my life to moments that beg abstract incapsulation in words, moments that are both painful and pleasurable, moments that make me wince but from which I could no sooner turn away than die. I tend to move, as I think do many, through my friendships focused on good times and parties and comaradery. But I am struck dumb when I fathom the ocean of pain we're all steeped in, the waves of fear and hurt and inevitability that surround us all. We move and rock and bathe in its tides. Sometimes we surf; mostly I think we merely tread; eventually we all drown.

Sorry to brood on the doom and gloom. I have to admit though I don't shy away from thinking about pain and death from time to time. I consider it a highly grounding, motivating meditation -- even if it is disorienting, frightening and surreal. But I figure why avoid the obvious? Why shut out the hidden knowledge, the obscure truths?

How else may one so fully appreciate the beautiful images of life?