After going on a field trip with the shelter kids to Underwater World at Mall of America this morning and knocking off some work for a nonprofit all afternoon, tonight I enjoyed a beer tasting sponsored by my favorite retailer comparing Oktoberfest brews. (My choices: Surlyfest, Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest, Summit Oktoberfest, New Belgium Hoptoberfest and Flying Dog Dogtoberfest.)
In a raffle that benefited the local food shelf, we avoided winning all the beer paraphernalia and came home with the $40 liquor store gift certificate, thus indicating my karma is still in force. Of course, it helps to have purchased a fistful of tickets.
I ran into an old business acquaintance there who I hadn't seen for about five years. When we owned our businesses, we served as board members for each other's companies. He had recently returned from three years in India with his family, where his wife made India safe for Target, and he worked as a volunteer with India's marginal non-profits, trying to help them get funding.
We also learned they had a fecund pear tree in the yard that was disgorging fruit at an alarming rate. We were invited to stop by later and take home one of several five-gallon buckets sitting on their porch, filled with water to keep away the wasps.
So we did. Reaching home, I made the rounds of the neighbors. It says something about our neighborhood that everyone answered the door on a dark Thursday night and welcomed a man in a windbreaker with a plastic bucket in one hand and Oktoberfest fumes on his breath.
Earlier this week, I made a beet, pear and feta salad that required me to purchase one Bartlett pear at the grocery store. Out of the hundreds of regular shaped pears, I found one that was almost suitably ripe.
Tonight, I came home with half a bucket of less perfectly formed fruit. In fact, you couldn't sell a one of them.
The photo shows less than half a bucket because some have already been devoured before bedtime. Had I tasted them first, I'm not sure I would have made the neighborhood circuit.
I suspect there are many lessons embedded in all this, and I am confident my readers are capable of extracting them. However, you will have to do it without tasting any of my pears.
I figured I'd snatched the card away in time. The newlyweds had their hands full preparing their escape (Garrett, a mechanic, had rigged a remote starter on his car, so it was running and ready to go as they left the church).
It would be hours at the very least before they'd turn their attention to the gift pile. By then, I'd have a new envelope, addressed to the bride instead of the bridesmaid, and could slip it on a table at another reception at my brother's house that evening.
No one would ever know.
I thought I might reveal my brain malfunction to a few family members at the party that night. But it wasn't the time. My niece and her husband were there, and there was no reason to make Katie think on her wedding night that an uncle who'd known her all her life couldn't pick her out of the herd. Plus, there were too many people who didn't know me from a preppie pimp running for congress. I play the eccentric uncle, not the family idiot.
So the next night, at a dinner with just a few family members present, I decided to try my story out first on my brother, the father of the bride.
That's when I learned the other side of the story.
When I dropped my envelope at the front of the church, one of Katie's friends immediately took notice. She ran into the back room where final bridal preparations were taking place.
You're not gonna believe this! she howled. Somebody left a card for Garrett and Jen!
Far from being kept in the dark thanks to my envelope switch, the bride and groom went to the altar knowing there was a bozo somewhere in the sanctuary. They just didn't know it was me.
In fact, I wasn't even on the list of suspects. After all, it made sense to assume someone from Garrett's side of the family might be vague about the bride's identity.
When the gifts were brought home, Katie and Garrett immediately ripped through the cards to find the one with her sister's name on it. They were puzzled when it wasn't there.
And there the mystery would have remained.
But I believe in karma. If you are going to be an opinionated SOB, you must admit when you put your foot in it. Hard as it might be to come
clean to my niece, it was the right thing to do.
So now, in addition to cash which will soon disappear into the ether, she has a wedding story that is likely to last a bit longer.
I've been in Colorado for a family wedding. My attendance record for weddings other than my own has not been great. I've made two of five sibling ceremonies, and in the past year have missed the celebrations for two nieces. A last-minute crisis also forced me to bail on a cousin's daughter's wedding — where I was the wedding singer.
Though I am reliable to a fault in other matters, do not count on me for your nuptials.
However, this time I made it to my youngest brother's oldest daughter's wedding in my hometown. (My partner and son had prior obligations, so they were able to uphold the family dishonor.)
This was also my first visit to the western front since May, which meant there were other duties on this whirlwind trip, many of which I pressed into the hours prior to the Saturday main event. One of them was preparing the card to make it look like our gift of cash was a sensitive, thought-out personal gesture instead of the lazy, last-minute resolution of a failure to look at the registry.
Being incapable of offering store-bought items or sentiments on any special occasion, I keep a stock of art cards and little bound booklets for expressing good wishes. It took me awhile to find a card here in the house, and unfortunately, the only available size did not permit bills to be enclosed flat.
Presentation is important to me, but it's the thought that counts, and we had to leave for the church in 2o minutes. So I folded the money and sealed the envelope.
Next problem. Am I sure how to spell the groom's name?
I am not the sort who carries around wedding invitations so I can consult them at such moments. The required information was in a recycling bin in Minnesota, my familiar was in yet another state, and I was surrounded by brothers who would be little help in the matter.
So I scribed Garret with one "t," hoping some faint visual memory would signal me to stop or continue to another "t."
Garrett, I decided.
I stuck the envelope in my pocket, and off we went to the church, where I dropped it at the sign-in table.
I sailed through the ceremony (no, I am not a churchy type), endured the reception (it was dry), and escaped a GOP candidate for governor in the crowd (to whom I was prepared to say, I haven't decided yet between you and your competitor for the nomination — a truth, just not the whole truth).
Then, as everyone was heading outside to send off the happy couple, I was stricken with a terrible realization. It sent me over to the gifts table where I began pawing through the basket full of cards.
Yes, the groom's name was spelled "Garrett," all right.
But I'd misspelled my niece Katie's name.
Oh, so what's the big deal? Katy, Katie...
Except I'd spelled it "Jennifer," the name of her younger sister.
Two local events this week combine irreverent thought and maybe beer, or as Solutions Twin Cities says, "where happy hour meets show and tell."
Tonight, Wednesday the 24th, Solutions Twin Cities presents Give & Take, a new monthly event co-presented with Intermedia Arts. There's a 7:30 - 9pm program with a social hour to follow.
They say: the format is based on asking everybody in attendance, presenters and audience, two questions:
1) What do you know about?
2) What do you want to know about?
Some of the presenters:
Peter Rich knows about traveling the country as a costume character unbound by brand or affiliation.
Kristen Murray and Sarah Peters know how to build community around building boats by hand.
Bill Prouty knows about the monkey man of India, and how one might track him.
It's happening at:
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
***** Drinking Liberally is at its usual 331 Club location. The guests of honor will be Ken Avidor and some of the other creators of "False Witness," the Michele Bachmann comic book previewed awhile back at City Pages.
Riding to a late lunch meeting along the Midtown Greenway today, I ran through a group of kids passing out cups of water near the Kix soccer fields. There was a supervising adult and a big water jug, so it looked like an organized activity — but to what purpose?
Was it a city troop of Cub Scouts doing a good deed or young volunteers practicing how to dispense water on the fly for some upcoming event? To the kids' shouted delight, I snatched a cup as I spun by. Stopping to ask questions would've ruined the effect.
At the Birchwood Cafe, I tried to order a Diet Coke, forgetting they went natural in the soda department. The guy offered some froufy alternatives, but I confessed I was just trying not to order a Surly Furious for lunch.
I took the lack of Coke products as God's will directing me back toward my original path and the man behind the counter shouted amen.
And then it happened, the person I was meeting is a friend and neighbor of the guy who started Surly. There's good news. New tanks have arrived, which will mean more good beer.
I wound home with the ingredients for laab gai* in my pocket and decided on a route that would take me past a Thai grocery. Working my way through the unfamiliar layout, I passed a cooler full of exotic canned beverages, including the intriguingly named Hello Boss iced coffee. Instead, I went for my first-ever coconut juice, manufactured by the equally inscrutable Thep Padung Porn Coconut Co.
Let's just say I won't be rushing out tonight to find my next can.
The detour to the grocery led me on a non-standard route across Minneapolis on 27th Street, up a closed-to-traffic Lake of the Isles Boulevard to the top of Lowry Hill, then down a smidgen to catch a sidewalk that runs along the 394 sound wall to Penn Avenue.
And there it was, except for a flattened plastic water bottle, the only piece of litter along the entire route — a coconut juice can!
Another echo from the cosmos.
I can't imagine America's byways have always been sprinkled with coconut juice cans tossed from the cars of Asian gangsters and lying in wait for my altered consciousness to finally notice them. So I can only conclude that there is a God who is slowly letting me in on the joke.
How else to explain this SUV with its fishing boat pulling up to the entrance of a funeral home at Plymouth and Penn this afternoon?
Almost too much to drink in today.
* The laab was excellent, though I substituted pork and tinkered with all the proportions in the recipe.
Last December I wrote a nuanced piece about flying the flag, but the commenters had my true number.
So the essayist will only display the flag if the candidate he voted for won the election?
Such fair weather patriotism, so hollow and vacuous.
The canditate I voted for didn't win. But my respect for this nation and its priciples remain intact.
Corporations are the difference between us and places like Somalia.
Which last I checked was severely lacking in the government department.
Today, the wind here was whipping the flag so hard it bent the metal mounting bracket straight down from the post where it was attached. Two-thirds of the pole slipped through the bracket and came apart. The flag itself was wrapped around the remaining section and tangled in the bracket.
Bombs bursting in air got nothing on the wind out here.
Three times, I've started novels, and twice before, they never got finished. These efforts have been sufficiently spaced in time that the writing was done using different technologies.
The first was composed using a typewriter and sheets of newsprint. That meant any page requiring significant revision had to be retyped from the start, which encouraged even more revision. This laborious process was not responsible for the novel's incompletion. I was freelancing and had a lot of spare time. It was a coming of age novel, and in the writing, I discovered I had not yet come of age.
Having learned my lesson, years later I started what I called my potboiler. It had no literary pretensions but it did have a pretty good premise and explored a world of intrigue that most writers never attempt because holding a corporate job long enough to learn the real twists and turns of business is harder than making up stuff about international spies or serial killers.
Anyway, this time, I came into work several hours early each morning and wrote on an early "office automation system" my company had developed. It had a word processing system that at the time was competing with the centralized typing pool. My files were stored on a central server somewhere, and I could print them out on a tractor-feed printer.
My son was born before I got even halfway, and that changed everything in my days. Eventually, the company discontinued the system, and an alert department secretary asked me if I wanted her to print out a copy before all the tapes were scrubbed.
For a long time, the draft sat in a box. I started it up again much later, but world events had moved on to make the central plot device much less original. So had technology. OCR scanning the old paper version into my computer proved to be more than I was ready to take on. And an even bigger problem was I was no longer the same writer.
Novel number three is now under way, and there are even more miraculous tools for turning words into books. Research is also considerably easier. But using an internet-connected computer also poses hazards.
For example, today I wondered if a character would refer to a Quaker Oats container as a "box." Instead of just calling it a box, since it is not a significant point, I decided to search for terms people might use and came across this video.
Then another, by the same creator.
Then, of course, I had to write about this. Meeting the video creator was a gift. I'm just not sure it was any help.
Many years ago, after shooting a few of god's creatures and deciding I liked it only slightly less than the creatures themselves, I resolved to find some new entertainments. One of the most enduring has been making up stories, or, as I like to call it, seeing the unseen.
Over the coming days, I will tell you a story that goes something like this...
Once upon a time, I arrived at the bank to discover that my intended deposit was $100 short. As best I could reconstruct, it happened because my renter pays me in cash. He is one of those first-decile poor people who can't be counted on to pay taxes, so as you can imagine, collecting rent is an adventure, too, and when I do, it arrives in small bills.
You may want to ask why a relatively prosperous individual such as myself is taking money from a poor working man, but that is not my story, and you can't stick me to it. I am actually a quite honorable and generous soul who is trying to recoup what he can of a sunken investment.
But anyway, I did not secure my jacket pocket and, as I cycled to the bank, five $20 bills apparently escaped along my route, leaving me $100 poorer than when I started. Naturally, the first thing I did upon discovering the shortage was to blame it on the bank clerk who counted my deposit. Once I confirmed the money was indeed missing, I whipped out my TI Business Analyst Calculator to determine the true extent of my loss.
Since I was planning to put the money in my retirement savings, I was able to calculate almost instantly that in 2027 when I go to buy a loaf of bread, I will have to pay for it with other funds. I was distressed by this news, of course, but somewhat mollified by the fact that I had stamped each of the bills with this message:
Reward: Please go to www.itsyourmoney.com andreport what you did with this money.
After all, I had become very concerned about my money falling into the wrong, unworthy hands and thereby causing economic decline and perhaps an irreversible calamity. I'm sure you will be enlightened by the reports I received.