Bringing in the Sheaves

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PERHAPS I SHOULD have done it six years ago, when he first left for college. Though I punctuated the summer weekends with nagging over how he ought to be systematically and thoroughly organizing, sorting, and discarding the middle- and high-school lifetime of memorabilia and clothing accumulated in his bedroom, it all, of course, happened in the last six hours before he moved out of town. Unmatched socks and yet-to-be-washed underwear went pell-mell into duffel bags and suitcases, along with pounds of hockey equipment, half the supplies in the family medicine chest, and all of the microwave popcorn in the kitchen. Did he have enough T-shirts? Would he need Polar Fleece? Were those cleats right for football? Who knew? No asking him—time … Read More

Playing Opossum

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I AM NO LONGER as impressed with bloodhounds as I once was. Turns out their job of tracking opossum is hardly the challenge one might have expected—in the heady days before one actually smelled one’s first opossum. Opossums, as it turns out, really stink. Really really really. Like four-day-old fish dragged through a swamp. Like damp toes left in mouldering wool socks. Like your little brother the first time he tried out the Old Spice. If you need a dog to hunt opossum, you’re just plain lazy. Or stuffed up. I know this scent intimately because an opossum has moved into my garage. Brian, the guy who has helped us fix up our house for the last 10 years, found it … Read More

In the Hall

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I DON’T LIKE group sensory experiences, as a rule. I’m a nice, Minnesota girl who wants her solitude during moments of extreme…well, extreme anything. If I must feel something intense, I’ll do it in the privacy of my own home, thank you very much. I don’t cry in front of the neighbors, I don’t sigh in front of the kids, I don’t emote in front of the cats. During sad, romantic movies I make excuses about needing emergency popcorn just so I can go off and sniffle unobserved. I feel better when I do my feeling behind closed doors. Except for orchestra nights, the magic of music, and what happens when we all sit down together to listen to it. … Read More

Your Product Here

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I’M ALL GROWN up and pragmatic and everything, so I understand that product placement in television programming is de rigeur these days. Networks must make their money, and selling countertop space in sit com kitchens to Kellogg and doughnut bag logo spots in police shows to Krispy Kreme keeps those poor, struggling media companies from having to raise bucks through bake sales and fund drives. But as a viewer, I have something to say to the advertisers who hawk their goods not only during the commercials, like normal capitalist pigs, but also during the programming, like sneaky little devils, and to the producers who allow this sort of sideways marketing to infiltrate what used to be vaguely entertaining or informative programming. … Read More

The Whittier Moose

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ALL RIGHT, I agree with you. A moose doesn’t sound like the most romantic of anniversary gifts. If you’ve ever seen a moose in the wild and lived to tell the tale, you are both lucky and well aware that moose are ugly, ugly, ugly, and mean. A moose will chase you through the Grand Marais underbrush along Highway 61 for no reason other than he just wants to see you break a sweat. And sweat you will, because moose are huge, galumphing things which have legs up to here and no real manners at all. A moose on the move looks like a Yule log with improbably long toothpicks stuck into it, as if you’d glued tent poles to … Read More

Christmas Jell-O

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IT JUST WOULDN’T be Christmas without Jell-O. Holiday traditions are built around this concoction of sweeteners, dyes, and stuff that hardens like amber to preserve the items that are lovingly placed in it. The lunch ladies at St. Raphael’s Elementary School were masters of suspending the four food groups in Jell-O. Carrots were an odd and particular favorite—not traditionally sliced, but shredded in a frenzy. Flurries of carrot peelings, snowing in Jell-O. Now that I am an adult and have struggled myself with kitchen mysteries, I wonder how they managed to get those carrot peelings to stand on end as the Jell-O hardened, forever ethereal in a vertical dance of keratin. My pitiful attempts only result in a clotted mass of … Read More

Thanksgiving Jell-O

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Past Thanksgiving Jell-O contest contenders: Diet Cherry Coke Jell-O; the Jell-O Cello; the Parting of the Red Sea in Jell-O.   SOME HOLIDAY TRADITIONS have noble roots, emerging from long-held cultural values or evolving out of time-honored family rituals. But now and then, a goofy tradition springs into being accidentally, a half-baked little casserole that ought to have been tossed out with last year’s fruitcake. Just such a step-brainchild was my nutty idea to launch a Thanksgiving Jell-O competition. I was standing in the kitchen the night before our holiday meal, whipping up the obligatory lime Jell-O with the obligatory canned pears, when I suddenly thought, “If the Egyptians had Jell-O, they might have built the pyramids out of this stuff.” … Read More

Eulogy for a Bridge

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IT COULD HAVE happened to any of us, so in a sense, it happened to all of us. We were all on that bridge, some days, most days, many hours, often enough to know the bumps in the pavement, the view of the locks and the skyline and the river, the bank of trees, the river road curling underneath, the exit to 94W coming up ahead. We knew that quirky, hard-to-watch-for shift in lanes if you wanted to get to Uptown, that place where the snarl of traffic started to back up in the left lane along about rush hour. We knew the billboard of Joe Soucheray and the smokestacks along the riverfront. Take the left turn off of Fourth street, crossing University, … Read More

Hope is the Thing with Holes

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I NEED A DONUT. I really, really, really need a donut. In fact, I need an entire shop filled with cases of them to be erected within walking distance of my house. A shop that stays open late and on national holidays would be ideal, but hey, I’m willing to organize my work, socializing, and life around the hours of a truly fine donut-making establishment. Whenever a business down the street or around the corner closes or moves, I hope, I pray, I imagine, I fantasize, I wish I wish I wish it would be replaced by a donut shop. Sadly for me, this never comes to pass. Instead, up pops another indie hair salon with a strangely conceived name … Read More