Monday, December 29, 2008

So you've moved to Minnesota. Well...

how IS it out there?

That's what people ask me. People from back in Seattle, anyway. It's odd, I still think of this blog as being read by Seattleites and I'm sure that's still the majority of the readership. But it stands to reason that there must be some Twin Cities folks reading it as well. The idea in my mind of a mostly Seattle audience kind of reveals that I still feel like I'm a visitor here. Perhaps it's an extended visit, like college or something, but it does not yet feel permanent.

Anyway, it's been nearly 10 months now. Here's how it is out here:

1. Weather is a huge topic of conversation.
2. People will talk about the weather wherever you go. Especially about extreme cold. The novelty has not worn off for them even if they're 90 and have never left Minnesota. Weather = fascinating!
3. The fact that people constantly talk about the weather means they constantly talk. It's a social place.
4. I think that's because it's based on farming and settlers. These people had to be social in order to NOT DIE. And it stuck.
5. I slipped into being a Vikings fan quite easily. This is probably because they are good and the Seahawks are not. The shallowness of my football fandom is now clear.
6. Still a Mariners fan. No wavering at all.
7. Trying to become a Timberwolves fan but the suckiness of their play and their dopey name makes that difficult.
8. I still can't get past the idea of Minnesota being funny, somehow. Like the entire state seems inherently whimsical, somehow. It's just a funny state. That perception on my part has made it harder to feel like this is home. I still feel like I'm living in a skit.
9. The accents. My god, the accents.
10. Humans are adaptable, it turns out. We had a few days there of minus 11 degrees or worse. We went out in it anyway, kids went to school, life continued. Then it heated up to 4 degrees and I couldn't believe how warm it was. Humans are adaptable.
11. There's this band out here called Cloud Cult. They're from Minneapolis. People talk about them constantly.
12. But they don't talk about Prince as much as you would think.
13. Great coffee was easy to find. So was great beer. Good Thai food took a while but was found eventually. Great pizza? The search continues.
14. Did that #8 thing make me sound like I didn't like it here? Sorry. No, I like it here. I like it a lot. It feels like a home. But I think it still feels like I'm looking into someone else's home. Will it be more like MY home, maybe after a year or two? Yeah probably.
15. I must admit, though, that the cancellation of Weekend America was a bummer. Did you hear about that? Our last show is 1/31/09. Crappy economy, big expensive show, you do the math.
16. I'm staying with the company, though. Future projects to be announced in due time.
17. I have developed a snow shoveling technique that works for me.
18. I have bought sidewalk salt.
19. I used to go entire winters without wearing a hat or gloves. Now, I have many pairs of gloves and many hats. I have a hat that makes me look like a ninja.
20. Minnesota, and especially St. Paul, feels like a place that is uniquely my own. I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, went off to various places for short term things, but then returned to the city where I lived for years. We stay in our hometowns by default, it's what we know. St. Paul is not what I know, which makes it all feel very fresh and exciting. It's my Midwest crisis, as my sister said.
21. Everyone in Seattle was from somewhere else.
22. Everyone here is from here.
23. People here don't consider themselves from here if they're from a suburb. "So did you grow up in St Paul?" "Oh geez no, I grew up way out in Mendota Heights!" Mendota Heights is on the other side of the bridge.
24. I thought I would miss the trees and the mountains but I don't. Not at all. Not even a little.
25. I miss my friends, though.
26. And I really, REEEEEEALLY, miss being in a rock band, especially the world's most important rock band. Tentative reunion concert in the works for next summer.


Merry Christmas. And close the hatch.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm not much of an Onion linker

but this made me laugh for a long time:

Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'

SACRAMENTO, CA—Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California's Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between "one man and one wolfman," instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. "The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law. But opponents, including Bakersfield resident Patricia Millard—who is now legally banned from marrying her boyfriend, a human, non-wolfman male—claim it infringes on their civil liberties. "I love James just as much as a wolfman loves his husband," Millard said. "We deserve the same rights as any horrifying mythical abomination." On the heels of the historic typo, voters in Utah passed a similar referendum a week later, defining marriage as between one man and 23 wolfmen.


Monday, December 15, 2008


1. I keep meaning to write long meaningful posts but have no time. Many kids. One a baby. Busy job. God trying to ice murder me (negative seven this morning, wind chill today of 35 below). So: items.

2. The baby loves cheese. Like a whole lot. Is this a result of us moving to the uppwe midwest or did she uterusly guide us here?

3. The baby can be calmed by music, including, curiously enough, The Hold Steady and The Pernice Brothers. When I play Neil Young songs, she gets all intrigued and concerned looking. So she's healthy.

4. Man, I try to make one off the cuff remark on the air and up show the grammarian lunatics:

5. I stopped twittering a while ago on account of I was going crazy. I still twitter at but I pretend I'm a radio show when I do that.

6. I've heard hardly any traffic reports since arriving in Minnesota. But weather? Almost constant updates. Los Angeles updates traffic AND air quality. I think cities issue the most updates on whatever part of that city will likely kill you fastest.

7. kaygottagobye.


Monday, December 08, 2008

A Conversation with Kate (age 6)

We're sitting around the dinner table.

CHARLIE: Does Obama have to have people come and move his stuff to the White House?
ME: Yeah. But I think he's keeping the house in Chicago.
KATE: Who lives in the White House now?
JILL: President Bush, until January, then Barack Obama moves in.
KATE: Is the oldest president buried here?
ME: Where?
KATE: Here! (pointing to dining room table)
ME: The table?
KATE: Yeah!
JILL: You're asking if the oldest president of the United States is buried inside our dining room table?
KATE: Yeah! Is he?
JILL: No. No, there is no president or anyone buried in our dining room table.
KATE: Where is he?
JILL: Probably buried in the ground.
KATE: Oh! Like my hamster!
ME: You're hamster isn't dead, Kate.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Smart People: Get On This

So the kitchen sink gets all floody and starts to flow into the dishwasher and there's water everywhere and ick.

After my own feeble "let's check the trap" plan yields nothing, we call the plumber. Because that's what you do, right? Of course it is.

So the guy shows up, says he'll fix it for x amount of money but also says we have another leaky hose that indicates a larger replacement being necessary for y amount more of money. And x+y = huge pile of money.

We do what you might do: tell the guy to do the x fix and not the y fix. It's a ton of money and also it just feels like he's piling things on (he also tried to sell us $65 worth of organic solvent stuff, no sale) the way you would expect a plumber to do.

And I'm thinking, what do honest plumbers do when a customer really needs something extra done but that customer is so conditioned to plumbers being dishonest that the customer refuses to believe it? It's not like you can say, "No really, you have to listen to me, I'm honest." We saw how well that worked when Nixon said he wasn't a crook.

Instead, customers like me with no real knowledge of plumbing are in a position to judge the veracity and merit of what a professional plumber is telling me. I still think he was piling on (there may be a wee tiny leak but not y dollars' worth) but I only think that because I'm me, with my checkbook, with my no idea about plumbing, and I'm in charge.

There must be a better way of doing business than this. A way of repairing the plumbing image, of educating homeowners, of having an independent third party who would not profit from repairs acting as arbiter in the situation. It's like car buying, it's just all broken. We can put a man on the moon. Although we haven't done so in some time and, if we are to believe terrible OJ Simpson movies from long ago, never even did that in the first place.

UPDATE: Hmm. So after agreeing to clean out the drain for x dollars, dude struggles for a while and then announces he can't do it. He thinks it's because he didn't bring the right tool. And then-- THEN-- he wants to get paid. And Jill is like, well, huh?, No! She calls the plumbing company, dude leaves, and they dispatch a new guy. New guy shows up, does the drain clearing for 60% of the first guy's price and also makes the leak go away with a little tightening here and there.

Now it gets weird. The new guy, the awesome guy, was not an employee of the original plumbing company, just another plumber they called out in a pinch. This conversation then occurred (paraphrased):

JILL: So what company do you work for?
GUY: I can't tell you that?
JILL: Wha-- why not?
GUY: I just can't.
JILL: Are you not supposed to tell me? Are you under orders from the plumbing company I called?
GUY: I ca--
JILL: How about this: can I follow you out to your truck and right down the name that it says on the side of your truck?
GUY: Well I can't stop you.

So that's our new plumber.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Margaret (age 6 months), I have something to tell you

It has to do with spoons and food. I have decades of experience using spoons to eat food. I've had soups, cereals, yogurts of many kinds. Your dad knows about this stuff.

I was feeding you tonight. Applesauce. A classic. And you got the idea that you had this eating from a spoon thing nailed. You've been watching me do it for a while, you figured, "How hard could it be?" I held out for a while but you were persistent.

Well, it's harder than you think. Some things you should know about spoons:
1. When you tilt the spoon, the food will generally fall off.
2. After the food is eaten off the spoon, there is no more food on the spoon until you return it to the bowl.
3. The mouth is really the only place where the food goes in any substantial way.
4. Sure, the spoon is a lovely toy, I guess. Easy to hold, kind of shiny. But here's the thing: if you won't let go of the spoon and you also haven't mastered spoon technique, I can't feed you. Sure, you can complain because you're still hungry but it won't matter if you won't release the spoon.

I applaud your confidence, Margaret, I really do. You are someone who, despite crapping your pants daily and occasionally toppling over from a seated position, looks at the world and sees something that can be grabbed, controlled, ideally shoved into your mouth. But there's a gulf between believing in yourself and true accomplishment. In other words, just because you KNOW in your heart you can work a spoon, that doesn't mean you can work a spoon. I love you, Margaret, and I embrace your confidence. In general, Margaret, my point is this:
Give me the SPOON.

Okay fine. Take the spoon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm STILL on to you!

Inspired by a Twitter tweet (what?) from the estimable Scott Simpson, I realize we're way overdue for another round of I'm On To You.

You know the rules. Tell us who or what isn't fooling you for a minute. Tell us about whom or what the jig is up. The truth is out. Come clean. Put the topper on the cake, call Aunt Betty, strap the harness to the wolverines because I'M ON TO YOU!

I'm on to you, Mike Huckabee.
I'm on to you, Dirty Sexy Money.
I'm on to you as well, artichokes on pizza.
Of course, of course, I'm on to you, Axl Rose, that should come as no surprise.
And obviously the American auto industry, on to you.
Also, you've been putting one over on people for a long time but I'm on to you, grapefruit.



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Modest Proposal to the Berenstains

Berenstains, look. I feel like I know you pretty well by now. That's because Kate (age 6) demands several Berenstain Bears books at bedtime every night and has for a while. I've read your family of bears deal with God, death, the Gimmees, all the big issues.

Here's something that we both know that a lot of other people don't: that shit is long. Your books. They take a lifetime. That means several long bedtime minutes - minutes I could be spending doing other stuff- spent putting up with all the elements of these bears' lives. Including:

- Mama Bear's smug bossiness and persistent housecoat wearing.
- The fact that the two older kids are named Brother and Sister and that even their friends call them that.
- The fact that the parents are named Mama and Papa and that even their friends call them that.
- The fact that this treehouse of theirs is amorphous and mutable, sometimes huge, sometimes tiny.
- The fact that bears have opposable thumbs, wear clothes, walk erect all the time, and drive cars. And have jobs.
- The disquieting fact that there are no humans.
- The lack of anthropomorphizing in regard to other animals. Dogs are still dogs.
- Did I mention how LONG these books are.

So look, Berenstains, I've contributed many hours to your books. I've built up your brand. I couldn't do more for you unless I tattooed character illustrations on Kate's cerebellum.

And that's all fine.

All I want is one thing. One book where a human shows up, possibly just hiking through Bear Country, and the bears behave like bears. I want a mauled camper. Give it to me. Connect me with reality, Berenstains. Make it graphic.

This can be a secret edition, send it to me in a plain brown wrapper. I will acquire a wall safe and hide it there so the kids never see it, at least until they're eighteen, well sixteen, and can really appreciate it. Fourteen.

Do this for me, Berenstains. I'll never ask for anything again.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You think it's #280?

When you buy a grande' coffee beverage at Starbucks, there's always at least a decent chance that you're going to get my The Way I See It cup. I saw this and wondered if I'm part of the Straight Talk Express.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Conversation with Kate (age 6) About Canine Footwear

HER: I don't think we should get a dog.
JILL: Why not?
HER: I think it would ruin my shoes.
ME: What? How would it do that?
HER: I like my shoes.
JILL: Are you scared the dog would chew the shoes?
HER: No. Just with the claws.
ME: Wait. Are you afraid the dog would put your shoes on and walk around in them all the time and damage the shoes as a result?
HER: Yeah. So that's why we shouldn't get a dog.
ME: Well Kate, dogs don't wear shoes. They don't like putting shoes on and besides I don't think they could put them on even if they wanted to.
HER: Oh! Okay! Let's get a dog!


Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm Proud of All the Stories on Weekend America

They are all my children. But some children you love an extra bit.

Two stories I'm really excited about this week:
1. Our second annual 30 Second Tales of Terror. As with last year we asked some fave writers to come up with scary stories that last 30 seconds or less. Because who has the time these days, am I right people? We have Dana Gould, David Rakoff, horror writers, children's writers, comic book writers. Check it out. IT WON'T TAKE LONG!

2. I wrote a couple of days ago about scary childhood movie moments. I ended up tracking down one of the original flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. I mean, an actor who played one. He was 13 then, 83 now and doesn't think they were so scary. My story also features the horrifying Bigfoot documentary, Willie Wonka, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Don't Know...

It seems like the ad team on the Obama campaign might have lost its focus just a bit.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scarred For Life

I'm working on a story/essay for this week's show about kids and scary movies. I'm coming to believe that it's not the scary movie that really does the damage to the kids since most adults have sense enough not to show truly scary movies to kids under, say, ten years old. And some of those very suspenseful films wouldn't make much sense to younger kids anyway.

But everyone I talk to has memories of movies they saw as kids that maybe weren't MEANT to be scary but freaked the crap out of them regardless. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't point to something along these lines. The clubhouse leader is the winged monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Other candidates include some bad guys on wheels from Return to Oz, anyone from The Dark Crystal, and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

For me? Bigfoot. For years I've told people about this one documentary w/reenactments I saw when I was very young. Never knew it's name, I just knew there was one scene where a woman is home, it's nighttime, there's a Bigfoot outside but she doesn't know it, Bigfoot starts smashing up her house for no real demonstrable reason, and she runs to the door, opens it, AND THERE HE IS!!!


Here's the world we live in today: I found the clip on YouTube. It's one minute and forty-four seconds that changed my life forever.

I am STILL SCARED. Laughing about it a little, sure, but STILL SCARED!

What movie scene do you remember from childhood that still freaks you out?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A few things

1. Marvin Gaye, a capella, to show you that you live in a world of beauty.

2. Wow!

3. This morning as Charlie (age 7) was getting ready for a routine day at school he said, out of the blue, "You know, I think it's true. The universe really does have a balance of dark and light." There's cute, there's precocious, and then there's unnerving.

4. The other day I was picking the kids up from school and saw a minivan parked out front with two bumper stickers. "McCain" and "Work Harder, Millions on welfare are counting on you!" The driver was inside sleeping at 3:30 pm on a Monday. He must have weighed 320 pounds.

5. If you don't regularly spend time at and, well, I just don't know what to say to you.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Minnesota Politics

In 1998 Minnesota elected Jesse Ventura as governor. I couldn't believe it at the time. But a friend who lived here then explained that the guys he was running against were just terrible and, well, you had to be here.

Now I'm here. One of those guys Ventura beat was Norm Coleman, now a US Senator running for re-election. His campaign is presently being derailed by charges that a wealthy contributor bought him some suits and that he gets a really ridiculously screaming deal on a DC apartment.

Here's Coleman spokesman Cullen Sheehan addressing reporters and being left to die. I hope you never see a more painful press conference than this one.

He's running against Al Franken.

Ventura almost ran again this year.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Baseball Playoffs As I Would Like To See It

This round:

Cubs vs. Dodgers - Root for the Cubs because come on. Also, Weekend America carried in both cities so that's a wash.
Phillies vs. Brewers - Hard one. Moyer plays for the Phillies and he's a Mariner favorite as well as the stepfather of President Taft and he was present at the Big Bang. Brewers were owned by Bud Selig who is no good. But it's great that a small market team made it this far and on my book tour Milwaukee and the folks at Harry Schwarz bookstores were great. They don't carry Weekend America in either city presently but we're working on both. Hmm. Phillies.

Red Sox vs. Angels - Red Sox. Angels are a Mariners' rival. In the same way that a beef stick is a dog's rival but still. Red Sox should not win it all, though. It's getting silly and the Sox fans were too smug before. Weekend America in both cities.
Rays vs. White Sox - Toughest one in the bunch. Rays dropped the "Devil" from their names, thus angering the Dark Lord Satan. The White Sox have AJ Pierzicyzzskizc who IS the Dark Lord Satan. Sox also have Ken Griffey, Jr. but sometimes a man just needs to accept that Tiffany broke up with you and she's never coming back. Rays, even though only Chicago carries Weekend America and even though the media relations lady was horrible and condescending to me when I did a story about the team and how can you be condescending when you work for the Rays, like who do you think you are?

Next Round:
Cubs vs. Phillies - It's a real showdown of the doomed. Two teams that just don't win big. But okay. Cubs. Fine.
Red Sox vs. Rays - Rays. Of course. Rays.

World Series:
Cubs vs. Rays - Universe collapses under the weight of improbability.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hi Blogaversasphere

Sorry for my neglect. As always, full refunds for all.

1. I realized tonight, while loading the dishwasher, that the song "Anchorage" by Michelle Shocked was one of the reasons why, at age 21, I decided to move to New Jersey for grad school. Rutgers University was near New York and actors from that program (I used to be an actor) became New York actors. There's a part in that song where Michelle is living in New York and reading a postcard from a friend in Anchorage who says, "New York City, imagine that." And so I imagined that and imagined people imagining that of me. And I wanted that. Then after being there for not very long I realized, Whoops, I don't want that any longer. Good song, though.

2. This Sarah Palin thing. Oh my. You know what's interesting? You feel whatever you want to feel about Palin but watch Katie Couric and her sorrow and confusion. Meryl Streep plays Couric in the movie. Palin is played by Joan Cusack.

3. Thanks for all the jokes! Keep 'em coming.

4. I went to Hollywood recently for a big fancy public radio conference. Among pub radio glitterati, I met Melissa Block and I met Stewart McLean of Vinyl Cafe and he was really nice.

5. I'm doing an essay on CB radios for this week's show. Why? Because Saturday is October 4th. Figger that one out!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joke sought

Trying some social networking for professional goals here (and Facebook and Twitter). I was thinking it would be good to have a joke at the end of this week's show. If it really catches on maybe it's something we do every week so people have a reason to stay tuned all through the credits. A little bon bon like This American Life does with Torey Malatia at the end. So I'm looking for a joke: something quick, tight, maybe newsy or maybe not, clean. Heard any good jokes lately?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Michael Vick is like, 'Why am I in jail?'"

Bill Clinton goes on and is Bill Clinton. Then Chris Rock comes on.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Conversation with Charlie (age 7) That Punches My Ticket to Hell

HIM: Dad, what color were Jesus's eyes?
ME: You mean the actual eyes or what color were the lasers that he shot out of his eyes?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I think...

That this template and all templates, really, look like crap. It de-motivates me from writing. Unlike the blog of my soon-to-be-ex-boss who will soon be more like a colleague which looks great. But what to do? Where to switch? Suggestions?


On David Foster Wallace

No eulogy or obituary here. Lots of other places to get those.

From me, just a complaint. We were robbed.

I've always admired Wallace's writing, of course, as anyone who has crossed the threshold of literacy really must to some extent. His non-fiction work, especially, is astounding. As Peter Sagal pointed out, everything Wallace wrote became the best piece of writing on that subject. He wrote the definitive piece on state fairs, the definitive piece on cruises, on porn conventions, on talk radio, on lobsters. He was that good.

I never met the guy. I do know that when he was asked to be on the "Good News, Bad News, No News" segment on our show he said he'd rather put a fork in his eye which we all thought was pretty great. I never knew him like a surprisingly large number of my colleagues did, all of whom loved him.

No, I was just a consumer. My relationship with them was one of a customer. An audience member. And we were robbed.

Robbed of Wallace's next book, his next explanation of the world we're all living in together. We were robbed of that portion of the beauty of insight. We were robbed of AHA moments by someone, one of the few people among all us billions, who can generate them, in his case seemingly at will. We live in a darker place without that book. We could live in a lighter place with new Nirvana records. We could be illuminated by what Spalding Gray can tell us but instead we were robbed of that light by his disease. We were robbed by medicine, by that person, by dumb luck, by society, by a lot of things but it was sure as hell a case of theft.

Hemingway robbed us. Virginia Woolf robbed us. Elliott Smith robbed us.

Ever been robbed? Like where your house is broken into and someone steals your stuff and you're just sitting there thinking about it? Your stuff is gone. Suddenly. Your goods, the things you acquired to make your life better, are just gone. You're angry, you're confused, and you're scared because that's the world you live in.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sophie Can Walk

Brave film making here. One father refuses to believe the Big Pharma / Western Medicine corporate conspiracy that says his newborn baby wouldn't be able to walk until she was a YEAR OLD. As the father of a non-ambulatory 4-month-old, I feel his pain. Thanks a lot, DOCTORS!

Monday, September 08, 2008

John's Still Mad, Few Jokes Here

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Sarah Palin, who would like the citizens of the United States to make her vice president, would not be interviewed "until the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference."

And okay so, um, WHAT? Respect? Absolutely. Of course. Deference? No. That wouldn't be an interview. That, sir, would be propaganda. She must be challenged, questioned, not allowed to wiggle, microscoped, cross-examined. Because this job she wants the American people to give her is an important job.

Are they required to make her available to talk in a format other than in front of friendly audiences speaking someone else's words on a teleprompter? No. Of course not. Do they have that responsibility? Yes, they do. It's a job interview. You don't hire someone for an important spot on your team based solely on the resume.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fr...Saturday Question - Ooh, I got one

A favorite conversation around our house.

Dinner party. You can invite three living people (not including whoever you live with because of course they'd already be there). Who are they?

Bonus: what do you serve?


Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Ques...ah, forget it.

Look, it's like this. Friday's are my bonzo banana days at work now since it's the day I write the show you'll hear tomorrow plus host the panel discussion and sometimes file a story too. So whereas my week used to be heavy at the beginning, then heavier, then lighter, now it's a slow build. I love it, of course, the new job, but hard on Fridays. So maybe we'll start doing a Tuesday question or something.

I also thought I'd give up the whole blogging deal but I'm not going to. I started this thing in 2003 when Rewind was going off the air and I thought it would be a good way to stay in writing shape. It was. It is. If you're a writer, you should blog. Who cares who reads the dang thing, if anyone. You're a writer? Write. But now I've kind of arrived at everything I've ever wanted professionally what with the show and books and stuff. But I will still blog. I feel like it's just in the bones now.

Also, here's a YouTube clip that chilled my spine. This Sarah Palin they have here, she doesn't do interviews. They're running her for Vice-President on a ticket with an old man who has survived cancer before and whose body has had some hard days and who has a family history of heart disease. So this Palin lady is someone who might be THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN THE WORLD AND SHOULDN'T WE GET TO KNOW HER?

No, says the McCain campaign. Watch this. The refusal to grant interviews is chilling enough but the sneering contempt exhibited for the simple notion of talking to the press is appalling. And bear in mind, this has nothing to do with politics. This isn't about what Palin or McCain believe or what Obama or Biden or Bob Barr believe. This is about secrecy and contempt and it's terrifying.

(wow, when did John get all serious? Or wait, was there a punchline? No? I looked for it but I didn't...)


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I knew Obama's background was unusual...

I didn't know it was THAT unusual.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Question: Promoted from the comments

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for YOUR questions. On account of laziness. Now that I'm hosting Weekend America, Fridays are actually fairly insane.

Cara suggested:
What piece of clothing have you owned the longest, and what is the story behind it?

Good one.

Me, I've been on a purge binge what with two moves and all. So at the moment, and Conservatize Me readers alone will know this one, it's the Puffy America shirt.

How about you?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Bunnies, Squirrels, and St Paul, Minnesota

So here in St Paul, we have all these bunnies, right? It's different than Seattle. Instead of crows we have all kinds of colorful birds. And instead of squirrels we have bunnies and also lots more squirrels.

Talking to the neighbor across the street as another bunny hops by.

HER: Yeah, they're cute but forget about it if you want to grow vegetables.
ME: Really?
HER: They'll gobble them up. Whatever you grow. Flowers too. They're relentless.
ME: Hm. Okay then.

Minutes later, I'm talking to Charlie (age 7)
ME: So what it means is that we shouldn't garden. If we garden, we'll grow to hate the bunnies. But if we DON'T garden, we not only get to love the bunnies but we also get to NOT GARDEN. Leaving us more time for everything else. And we don't have to eat disappointing salads.
HIM: Maybe we should get some carrots and then keep the leaves but replace the carrots with hot dogs.
ME: And then do...what...with them?
HIM: Put them back in the ground. Then the bunny thinks he's having a carrot and he's like "Oh no! I'm a carnivore now!" And he'd be so freaked out he'd leave us alone to grow carrots.
ME: I don't know. Seems like a lot of work. And ruined hot dogs.
HIM: But it would be funny.

By the way, regarding squirrels:
1 squirrel on a tree, unnoticeable
2 squirrels on a tree, cute
3 squirrels on a tree, weird
4 squirrels on a tree, troubling
5 squirrels on a tree (happened this morning), GET OUT OF THERE


Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Question: Summer's Most Memorable Moment

What was the one moment that stood out in your summer this year? Part of a vacation? A particularly good ice cream cone?

For me, it was a day in July when, as we had done so often, we loaded up the kids to go look at houses. They were reluctant. Truculent. Surly. But there were some new listings and we hoped it would pan out this time. First on the bill was a house we had looked at and liked but on second pass it just seemed too small. Then on to house #2. It was having an "agents open house", so it was a lot of real estate agents and a big steaming tray of egg rolls (as is the custom in St Paul with this type of showing). Jill went in first while I hung out with the kids in the van. Then it was my turn, and this was the moment of the summer, I went in and thought, "Oh! I'm home!"

We bought the house and moved in two days ago. Lovely place. I hope to be there for years and years.

(Birth of Margaret was technically a springtime event.)

What was the most memorable moment of your summer?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the set of this Hall & Oates "video"

Arm chairs? Check.
Oates's mustache volumizing gel? Check.
Cigarettes? Check.
GUY IN DEVIL COSTUME? Check on that.
Oates's tux ensemble from space? Checkity check.

Wheelbarrow full of quaaludes? Check.
Wait, we need one wheelbarrow for Hall and one MORE for Oates.
Yep. Check on both those. We even brought a weird robe for Hall.

Okay, then let's shoot this thing.


Monday, August 18, 2008

A Conversation with Kate (age 5) About Avian Funeral Practices

KATE: Dad, do you remember that dead pigeon Charlie found?
ME: Sure. A couple weeks ago. Down the street there.
KATE: Dad, I never saw the dead pigeon.
ME: I know. By the time you came back to see it, it was gone. Did you want to see it?
KATE: Yeah. But I was too late.
ME: Well, you weren't missing much.
KATE: I think what happened was his pigeon friends came down and buried him.

As always, the world Kate lives in tops the world the rest of us are stuck with.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Question

Gah. Overloaded at work. Sinking. Vision. Failing.

How about this:

What questions do you have? Submit your own Friday Question in the comments and/or answer someone else's. It will be just like human interaction without any of that cumbersome human interaction.

Gotta go.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Should Tell You About the Angry Mob Faced by Charlie (age 7)

On Sunday night, I took baby Margaret for a lovely stroller stroll around our St Paul neighborhood. It was a warm night, there was a nice breeze, and I thought about what a pleasant friendly place we lived in. But when I got home, something was strange. On the porch were some baseballs and some underpants. Charlie's underpants. He often leaves random things laying around the house but rarely does that include piles of underpants on the porch. Something was amiss.

Jill told me that there had been talk of a war between Charlie and some neighborhood kids. Charlie had initially thought that he should fight them with a baseball bat but then changed his mind and had opted to shoot underpants at these kids instead. Then he abandoned that plan and the underpants and went inside. "Was it, like, play war or was there going to be a real fight?" I asked. Jill thought it was play war but it happened fast and weird and she couldn't be certain.

A few minutes later I was in the kitchen when I noticed a group of six kids ranging in age from about four years old to maybe nine standing outside our house, gazing up at it. "That's him! I think I saw him move! Let's wait here!" they mumbled to themselves. They were cute as hell these kids but they were also, and this is important, an angry mob. I slipped out the back door and walked up behind them.

"What are you guys looking at?" I asked, as if I was a passer by.

"There's a boy in that house and he threw a rock at us. And we're going to GET him!" said one boy excitedly. "And THIS is the rock he threw!" he added, holding up said evidence.

The group included a boy about Charlie's age on a bike and carrying a baseball bat. A couple of other kids carrying nothing and a small girl named Gwyneth, the youngest of the angry mob, with some safety scissors. "And I'm going to POKE HIM!" she vowed. One other kid carried a hula hoop though it was unclear if it was intended as a weapon or was just a hula hoop. It was held in as menacing a way as you can hold a hula hoop.

Well, I want to be objective and all but when a mob, even an adorable mob, comes after your boy, it's kind of hard to see clearly. "Threw a rock at you, huh? And I suppose you did nothing to deserve that? My son threw a rock at you for no reason at all?" I asked. Now they knew I was not just some adult asking questions. I had a dog in this fight.

"(mumble mumble) nohejustthrewitatuswedon'tknowwhy (mumble mumble)". Gwyneth holding scissors at the ready.

"Maybe you guys should get on home and stop staring at my house," I advised. Hoping that was the end of a weird misunderstanding I went inside. But as I went inside, Charlie was coming out, BAT IN HAND. Apparently the plan, bought into among both camps, was to have a "baseball bat sword fight" to resolve differences. I paused to imagine that confrontation and exactly how quickly it would dissolve into ambulances and lawsuits. What, four seconds? Five? I also paused a moment to admire the pluck of my son: faced with an angry mob, he was ready to step in and settle it with freaking baseball bats, regardless of the harm that may come to him from safety scissors and hula hoops. But I couldn't let that happen. I stepped in and corralled both adversaries, gathered them all together. We talked.

Apparently, one of the mob kids rode his bike too close to Charlie in our yard, raising concern in Charlie that "he was trying to kill me" (who among us in an urban area hasn't felt the same about cyclists?) . This triggered the thrown rock, the subsequent mob outrage, and the gathering up of scissors, hoops, and bats. This all made perfect sense to everyone involved.

It's a funny thing about resolving conflicts among people who are significantly less powerful than you are. They listened to my talk about misunderstandings and how we all live in the same neighborhood and how no one wants to hurt each other. But I could see in their eyes, they were thinking, "Nah, bullshit, we absolutely want to hurt each other but now we know that adults know about these plans and we can't administer the beatings we so desperately yearn for." Nothing changed, they didn't all become friends (maybe they will one day), they just looked at each other with the knowledge that the bat sword fight and the poking and whatever terrible thing happens with the hula hoop would have to wait.

Until I'm older. And they're older. And they have more power than me. And then it is so on. I will die with safety scissors sticking out of me, I just know it. Her name is Gwyneth.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Tardy Friday Question

Sorry. Had a lot on my mind lately with work and all.

Maybe I can use that.

Friday Question is this:

What would you like to hear on the radio on a weekend?


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Late to the party on this one as well but dang this is a funny site. Cake Wrecks, displaying and commenting upon the worst PROFESSIONALLY DECORATED cakes. Thanks to Sleater-Yandel for pointing it out.

Oh, also there is a Facebook page for Weekend America now where you can be a fan. It's perfect for when you want to confirm to yourself and the world that, yes, you enjoy certain things.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An Unusual Day at the Office

This is starting to filter out now so I figure I should mention it here. It was announced today that I will be the new host of Weekend America, starting with the August 16th show. The show has been based in L.A. and St Paul but it was decided that we would consolidate operations in St Paul. From a hosting perspective, that means that Bill Radke who has been hosting the show from there will no longer be with the program. Meanwhile, Des Cooper who has been hosting the show from St Paul along with Bill will become a Sr. Correspondent based in Detroit where she lives (she's been commuting between Detroit and St Paul for the last year). So we'll have one host and it will be me.

I haven't known Des all that long but have come to deeply admire her journalism chops, her storytelling, and her work ethic. Plus she's a heck of a friend. I've known Bill Radke much longer, as anyone who knows my radio career will realize. He helped break me into the radio biz ten years ago when I started writing for his show Rewind on NPR. Then he hired me as a staff writer on that show and allowed me to guest host when he was absent. Later, after he got hired on the show that would become Weekend America, he recommended me there as well and after some freelancing I came aboard full time. With no Bill Radke, there's no me on the radio. He, also, is a heck of a friend. Nicer people don't roam the earth and rarely does someone's brilliance match their niceness as is the case with Bill.

When I moved to St Paul, I hoped that I could one day host a national show. Had no idea it would happen so soon. And it's making me rethink my opposition to Jimmy Fallon taking over Conan's spot on NBC. I mean, sure, I don't think he's ready but I haven't seen him host a show before and just because Conan was/is so great, doesn't mean that Fallon can't be okay. Fallon probably sees the task as daunting, sure, but I bet he's also really excited about the opportunity. And he was pretty funny as Barry Gibb.

Anyway, yeah, so...that. Now you know.


Billy Gibbons

This article appeared in Talk of the Town in The New Yorker a few years ago and for some reason it has always stayed with me. It's about Billy Gibbons of the band ZZ Top. And it's about his eccentricities and, really, about his unanticipated eloquence:
For example, here is his answer to the question “Who was that?” after he’d talked for a while on his cell phone: “Elwood Francis, our guitar technician, took a brief absence from the tour in order to escort his wife to China, where they successfully adopted a baby girl named Joshi. In his absence, his post was attended by a talented technician named Sammy Sanchez, who introduced me to a guitar called the Turbo Diddly, which is made from an old wooden cigar box. It has what you call a resonator, and it sounds like a bad recording from 1949. The guy who makes it, Kurt Schoen, is a pilot for UPS.”

You should read it.


Friday, August 01, 2008

The Onion's satire jet buzzes too close to my house

McSweeney's Rejects Mike Mussina's Seventh Consecutive Submission

Good to know I'm better than Mussina at something.

Friday Question: Late to the Party

Posting has been light lately. Busy, crazy times. I'll refund your subscription.

So in the past week I've become a voracious consumer of music by The Hold Steady. Blissfully hard rock music, masterful lyrics, a singer who doesn't sound like he should be in a band but is awesomtacular regardless (I'm a sucker for singers like that), and great use of piano.

The thing is, this band has been around for a while and has lots of fans already. I'm late to the party. This has happened before when I "discovered" The Magnetic Fields many years after everyone else had. In both cases, I was all like Why didn't anyone tell me about this?

Why didn't anyone tell me about (x)? I'm really late to the party regarding (x)!

What does x equal?

Could be a movie, a band, a TV show, a painter, a city, a type of dog, anything. Share it with the world so that others don't have to go without as you did.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Potentially Exciting News

Charlie (age 7): Dad, can I start a blog?
Me: Why would you do that?
Him: So I can be famous.
Me: Well, I don't know if that's how it works.
Him: You have a blog, right?
Me: Yeah. I used to talk about you on my blog. Like when you were six and then eight babies. But I stopped talking about you so much because I didn't know if it was okay with you.
Him: It's fine with me. I want to be famous.

I suspect it would be like the hamster. He would get to name the blog and pet it sometimes but I'd be cleaning up after the damn blog all the time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I hosted Weekend America this weekend, America.

I recently found out that since moving to St Paul I've lost a bunch of pounds. Like way more than I had expected to. So that combined with the fact that I'm a big time celebrity means I can offer diet tips.

1. Move to a city that, though you love it and are glad to be there, really can't hold a candle to Seattle in terms of restaurants. Not trying to insult anyone, it's just a fact.
2. Engineer a worldwide energy crisis such that the price of gas soars and it just makes more sense to walk or ride your bike to work and everywhere else.
3. Have the earth maneuver such that summer arrives. Blistering hot, humid Midwest summer. Then sweat like crazy.
4. If possible, have three kids, including a newborn. This will mean less time to cook or even eat and your dinner will often be whatever part of a hot dog gets left behind.

That's it! Book me, Oprah Wimifrey!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday Question: Movie Math

(note: this was originally posted not as a Friday Question but then I realized it was Friday and that it made a pretty good question. So some of the comments might be a bit out of context, like the one where Glenn Fleishman berates me.)

If you remove Minnie Driver from Good Will Hunting, a good movie becomes great. If you remove Minnie Driver from Grosse Pointe Blank, an uneven movie becomes very solid indeed. So then if you take the remaining Driverless parts of those two movies, you get a crazy fantastic movie that could take over the world. And you'd have a double Driver movie of such intense annoyance it would threaten the existence of goodness itself.

These are facts!

What kind of addition or subtraction or multiplication can you suggest to make a bad movie good or a good movie great? I encourage you not to just use this as a diatribe to rail against least favorite celebrities. Don't hate, additionate!



um...missed...that episode.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wow, musical edition.

Ben Folds. Rufus Wainwright. Duet. Careless Whisper.


I think the best part is the audible gasping of the crowd realizing "THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!"

Wow, chapter 2

Okay, you know a trip is going well when you've traveled halfway around the world, all eyes are on you, you're handed a basketball and you somehow manage to go all Rip Hamilton.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


As noted on, there is little doubt as to who won the battle of visuals yesterday:


Monday, July 21, 2008


I've been told to be more self-promotional. This from the executive producer of my show, who is also my boss's boss, who is also my regular old friend, who has also won a Peabody, who also helped invent This American Life. So I listen to him, even though he's younger than me, which makes me feel ill and dying.

So I hereby launch a new Monkey Disaster regular feature, entitled HEY LOOKY LOOKY.

Right then. HEY LOOKY LOOKY: I had a story on last week's show about whether Satan, or rather the absence of Satan, has anything to do with the baseball team in Tampa. I interview a Lutheran pastor, a Satanic high priest, and a baseball writer. I use real Satan nicknames like Old Gooseberry and Black Donald AND I invent new ones like Smoky Jim.

Here it is.


Friday, July 18, 2008

An honor

Conservatize Me, a book I wrote, made the summer reading list at the Seattle Public Library as voted on by the Adult Summer Reading Club participants. I'm huge in the place I used to live among readers who don't pay anything to read books.


Friday Question: Advice

Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite comedians. In fact, it should be a federal law that he's everybody's favorite comedian. He recently gave the graduation speech at his old high school and it's a terrific read.

Here's a passage I've already seen heavily quoted:

"So now I’m going to try to give all of you some advice as if I contained fatherly wisdom, which I do not. I contain mostly caffeine, Cheet-o dust, fear and scotch."

"First off: Reputation, Posterity and Cool are traps. They’ll drain the life from your life. Reputation, Posterity and Cool = Fear.

Let me put that another way. Bob Hope once said, “When I was twenty, I worried what everything thought of me. When I turned forty, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. And then I made it to sixty, and I realized no one was ever thinking of me.” And then he pooed his pants, but that didn’t make what he said any less profound.

Secondly: The path is made by walking. And when you’re walking that path, you choose how things affect you. You always have that freedom, no matter how much your liberty it curtailed. You…get to choose…how things affect you.

And lastly, and I guarantee this. It’s the one thing I know ‘cause I’ve experienced it:

There Is No Them. "

I've given two graduation speeches in my life and for the life of me I can't remember what either of them were about. I bet they seemed trenchant to me at the time. But at the time I was 17-21 years old. And I really didn't know shit, quite frankly. I wonder what advice I would give now. I like to think it it would be simple. Information you can use. I think I would tell the graduates, "When you're flying on an airplane and they ask if you'd like anything to drink, tell them you'd like a can of Coca-Cola. If you just ask for a coke, they'll just give you a plastic cup of mostly ice and you won't be sated. Ask for the can and they'll give you the cup, the ice, AND the can. Then you're sitting pretty, my friend."

So what advice, practical or not, would you give graduates?

Also, for extra credit, Patton contains caffeine, Cheet-O dust, fear, and scotch. What do you contain?


Monday, July 14, 2008

Everyone Has Probably Heard This...

but it's the Violent Femmes covering Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" quite beautifully. Make absolute sure you listen through to where Gordon does the "ha ha ha, bless your soul" part.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Question

Okay, we've been pretty heavy around here lately. Philosophical Friday Questions, long posts that are emotionally exhausting for all involved. Let's take a nice summer week and go back to a long time favorite:

I'm On To You!

I'm on to you, tiny air conditioners.
I'm on to you, Sharon Osborne.
I'm on to you, Vitamin Water.
I'm actually sort of even on to you, regular water.
And I'm completely on to you, Steve Ballmer and David Stern.

Who or what are you on to?


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Overnight, chapter 4

For all chapters, go here.

Heading west on Denny Way towards the Seattle Center and not yet to mile 17, I realized there was simply no way this was going to be a 20 mile walk. I was devastated. I had told everyone I would walk 20 miles, I had told myself I would walk 20 miles. My feet were pounding with pain, I was somewhat bleary, but I didn’t want it to end. I was kind of angry about it, actually. I ended up passing the 17 mile mark about ten minutes before entering Seattle Center so it worked out to about a 17.5 mile walk.

As I entered the Seattle Center, I was greeted with more volunteers cheering me on (I think I was coming to the finish line much earlier than most people). I was also greeted with the bags that had been decorated to memorialize the people who had died by suicide. I had written about Rick on one of these bags but here were hundreds of the bags, lining the walk, each with a candle inside. All these glowing things, each with someone’s name on them. People finishing their walks slowed down to look for the bags they had made. Some found them and were camped in front just staring, sometimes talking a little. There were so many bags.

“To Mom, we love you and we miss you.”
“Eric! You are always in our hearts!”
“For my friend, Crystal.”

And this one:
“To Jill’s husband, your wife and family miss you very much.”

I didn’t stop to read very many of them because I decided that I simply wasn’t done walking yet. I hadn’t come to Seattle to walk 17.5 miles; I flew across the damn country to walk 20. So after the finish line, I just kept going. I walked out of Seattle Center and started heading downtown on 2nd Avenue once again. The roadside mileage markers had long since been removed so I just calculated on an average 20 minute mile and figured I’d walk 25 minutes then turn around and walk another 25 back. I mean, sure I could have factored in walks to the car and stuff but that doesn’t count. That’s not the rules.

Thing is, walking through downtown at a little past two in the morning means closing time at the bars. Drunks spilling out into the street, kids out partying screaming out plans for where they’d go next, various dodgy looking characters with whom one best not make eye contact. The entire variety of intoxication. I’d never been more sober.

I had never walked this far in one stretch before and by the time I was heading back to the Seattle Center, I was in pain with every step. But I got there. I walked the 20 miles. It didn’t make Rick’s death any more bearable, the extra 2.5 miles didn’t prevent any more deaths. But it was a promise I made that I had to fulfill. I can’t really think of any symbolic relationship between this and the struggles of suicide survival. Maybe they’re there, who knows. But just as I didn’t want to look out at the water during the walk (that’s where Rick’s ashes were scattered), I didn’t want to really think about anything other than the walk.

Returning to the Seattle Center at 2:40 in the morning, I grabbed a plateful of food, a mylar blanket, and a free T-shirt and sat down. Then I covered my face with the T-shirt and collapsed into, oh, about seven minutes of uncontrollable sobbing. Then I dried off and ate the food. Good food.

Eventually I got up to go look at the bags again. There were hundreds of them, each memorializing someone who died, who devastated their families, who caused a chain reaction of despair that will never end, who tipped a domino that will ripple through their families and hurt family members who haven’t even been born yet. These bags all glowed in the pre-dawn darkness. They weren’t ghosts, they weren’t the people who had died. They were bags with candles in them.

And the bags shouldn’t have been there. I mean, I’m glad they were for the purposes of the walk; it was incredibly powerful and poignant. But those people should have been at home in bed. Mom, Eric, Crystal, “Jill’s husband” should all be home in bed. They should wake up hours later and have some breakfast and read the paper and then go to the park or maybe a movie. They should hug their kids, kiss someone, learn a new language. They should dance. Instead, they’re a bag on the grass.

When people ask me how many people were walking that night, I quote the figure of 1200 which I heard somewhere. “That’s great”, they inevitably say. And yeah, that’s true, it’s great that there is attention for this problem. But they shouldn’t be there. They shouldn’t need to be there. That was the first line spoken at Rick’s service in Seattle. The pastor said, “We shouldn’t be here.”

I looked through many bags, trying to find Rick’s. But I gave up after a while. He was in there, someone else had surely seen his and missed their own bag that I saw. Rick was in there, part of this terrible club, part of this sea of bags, this sea of souls with Eric and Crystal and Mom and Jill’s Husband and Kurt Cobain and Chet Baker and Spalding Gray and Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf and Elliott Smith. Here’s a picture I took of someone I never knew:

I returned to the building where people were resting and recovering. I watched through some huge windows as the sky turned a lighter blue. Dawn had arrived. A closing ceremony was held. A girls choir sang. The two walks combined, New York and Seattle, had raised something like 3 million dollars. The money would go to prevention programs, psychiatric research, and other avenues to understand and stop suicides so fewer bags and walkers would be needed one day.

I’ve been sitting here at a keyboard trying to think of what to say in the What It All Meant part at the end here. I think it was a political act, I believe that if depression/mental health/suicide got the attention that drunk driving got, there would be fewer deaths. It was personal, of course, as I awakened to this vast network of people sharing this common experience.

But more than anything else, it was gaudy. It was tacky. It was a little obnoxious. And that’s a really good thing. Here were people in these beads marching through a city, not disruptively, but acutely and glaringly present. And they were speaking about this unspeakable act. They took their horrific pain and put it on display. Depression is a lonely place and so is grief. For one night, it was placed in a community of darkness, pain, and ultimately daylight.

Next year, the walk is in Washington, DC.

Here’s Weekend America’s story on the Overnight.
Here’s Weekday on KUOW talking about the walk.
Here's a really interesting article in the NYT Magazine.

Build the fence on the Aurora Bridge.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, July 07, 2008

A Conversation with Kate (age 5) About Music

(Some music is playing in the living room as we sit down to play cards)
ME: Kate, the person singing here is Neil Young.
KATE: Oh. (pause) Dad, if I have to hear any more of this, I am going to die.
ME: You don't like Neil Young much, huh?
KATE: I only like one rock band and that's Alvin & The Chipmunks.
ME: But you love Wolfmother.
KATE: Yes! I love Wolfmother! But this music now is horrible.

To be fair, it was the unforgivable "A Man Needs a Maid".

The Overnight, chapter 3

For chapters 1 & 2 go here.

A lot of people on the walk were from somewhere other than Seattle, which, along with New York, was one of only two cities hosting the walk in 2008. So these out-of-towners didn't understand why we needed to go up a steep tiny street to see a troll statue. Me, I used to live in Fremont but I never quite got the troll either. As the night wore on, I noticed fewer official volunteers and more people who seemed to be just watching the walk, like they stumbled into it. The guy near the troll statue was like that. "I lost my friend. Thanks for walking," he was half-mumbling, "High five. Thanks. Good job." He may have had a few drinks. This walk meant something to him.

I kept on walking through Fremont down to the Burke-Gilman trail and at this point we were north of Lake Union in Seattle. We were pretty thinned out by then and I just had to hope I was going the right way. I fell in with a woman who was walking alone. Her grandfather died before she was born but she was walking to understand why her dad was the way he was. This woman was a teacher and invited her dad to her classroom on a day when they happened to be having a Day of the Dead celebration. Her dad got panicked and had to leave the room. He's pretty old now but incapable of having a conversation about death. She walked for her dad. He couldn't.

Further east and down to the Husky Stadium parking lot for a midnight (well, 11:45) lunch. Sandwiches, pasta, some brownies, and also chairs and grass embankments. O, you foul temptresses chairs and grass embankments! Such relief to get off one’s feet but tempered with the knowledge that it would make getting back on one’s feet so much harder. I paused, talked to the Wisconsin folks a bit, checked in with the Pirates fans, and then stood up to start walking again, more stiffly. Past the Museum of History and Industry, across the Montlake Bridge and over to Eastlake Avenue and heading south. By now it was way past midnight and no one was really visiting any more. No one was sharing stories of who they were walking for. It was too sparse a crowd and the pain was getting to be a real nuisance.

Part of what I loved about the idea of the Overnight walk, back when I first read about it, was the stagecraft of it all. You walk through the darkness, you emerge in the light, you are part of a mass of people who all share this issue with you. It was a 20-mile walk but it was almost performance art, almost a protest. They didn’t talk about the part where the crowd would thin and it would be dark and kind of cold and you’d be alone. Still, this 12:30 a.m. stretch was just as potent symbolically as the more obvious theatrical moments. There came a point as I walked past the Eastlake Zoo tavern where I was alone. Part of this massive charitable healing event, sure, but really? Alone. No one within 100 yards of me. And I’m in pain, each step like a hammer to the foot. And I’m tired. And wondering if I could really keep doing this thing but knowing I had to. I had to keep walking through this darkness regardless of who was or wasn’t cheering me on. We can wear beads and special shirts and have been sponsored by wonderful friends, we can seek fellowship and sympathetic ears but we’re all ultimately alone.

Unless you’re part of the group of people in red T-shirts. Then you’re with everyone else in the red T-shirts. “Dude, you’re not even walking on your left heel!” shouted what appeared to be their leader, a buff and blond male cheerleader type as I passed them. No, I told him, it was just hurting me a bunch so I was favoring the front of the foot first, hoping it would get better. He had a lot of questions about my shoes in between cheering his team of five or so on. “I’m a personal trainer,” he said, “so I’m, like, REALLY into shoes. It’s all about the shoes! Whoo!” Not the kind of person you expect to meet on a suicide walk.

Down around the south part of Lake Union. A family on the side of the road. Mom and Dad standing and cheering, two young kids in a wagon smiling and clapping, they couldn't have been more than six or seven years old. Way past their bedtime. This family has a reason for being there.

Two teenagers walking near me asked if I knew how long the walk was. 20 miles, I told them. They said that’s what they had thought but they had heard from someone that it was only 18 miles. We snaked through the South Lake Union neighborhood past the mile 16 marker and I fell back in with the exuberant personal trainer and his redshirts. He thanked me for walking. Politely, I thanked him right back. He said that he’s lost two friends to suicide and that he’s battled depression his whole life. “I’ve been awfully close to suicide myself. I have to fight this every day,” he said quietly before turning back to his group with “Whoo! Come on everyone! You’re doing great!”

NEXT TIME: the end of the walk, eventually.

All walkers wore beads. Cheap plastic strands but extraordinarily heavy when you factor in symbolism.

We were asked to stretch before the walk even though it was just walking.

Seattle just before it got dark.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Question: Independence Day

Don't stay in and read blogs. Go outside.

But as long as you're here:

What are you independent of/from?

What are you dependent upon that you wish you were independent of?

As for me:

I am independent of coolness.
I am too dependent on staying in touch.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Still Slammed

Exciting life lately. Here's ducklings in a bathtub.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Totally Slammed This Week

Here's an inspirational video of a Pinto.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Question: A Handy How-To

I was reading Tina's blog the other day and, unbidden, offered advice. She indicated that she wants to try to make her living as a writer and, since that decision, has a hard time writing. I want her to write because she's really smokin' good at it and I've been more or less making my living writing for a while now (and speaking, yes, but you have to decide what it is you will say). So here's what I said:

My advice on becoming a professional writer:

1. Start calling yourself a writer. Slip it into conversation wherever you can. "Hi, I'm Tina, I'm a writer." "Well, as a writer, I think..." "I was writing something the other day as writers do."

2. Commit to other people that you will write specific things by a specific time and then keep your word. THESE PEOPLE MUST NOT BE FRIENDS, THEY MUST BE STRANGERS. OR MOSTLY STRANGERS. Ideally, this would be something intended for publication, at least weblication.

3. Repeat steps 1-2.
It's simple. It's not EASY, understand, but it is simple.

I got to thinking that there's probably lots of difficult stuff out there that actually has simple instructions. How to run a marathon, how to run a business, how to cook, how to train a dog.

Here's the challenge/question:

What are three simple steps to doing something difficult that you know how to do?

Use your expertise, make the world stronger, help us all out here.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Overnight, chapter 2

Chapter 1 is here

I walked with Rob’s mom for a while. The crowd thinned as quicker walkers accelerated a bit. Soon we were in Belltown, a neighborhood where hipsters party and barhop on Saturday nights. A bit of cognitive dissonance for the hipsters: here we were in Mardi Gras beads but clearly not headed for the bars and clearly not festive. I heard a few people ask some walkers what this was all about. I didn’t stop to clarify for anyone. I just walked and chatted about the weather with a man and a woman I took to be brother and sister. Both wore gold beads (loss of parent), the woman asked the man about Seattle, we all speculated about whether it would rain. The crowd continued through downtown, past Hammering Man, turning right on Cherry Street and down to the waterfront where our first rest stop awaited. It had not yet been two miles but here were snacks and drinks and toilets. Some chose to stay and look out at the Seattle waterfront in the evening sunlight. I had seen that water before and, in fact, beautiful though it was, I wasn’t eager to see it again. That’s where Rick’s ashes were scattered. Now wasn’t the time to reflect, it was time to walk.

Walking north through Myrtle Edwards Park, I began to feel the sore feet a bit. Not really sore but the indications of where soreness would be. And oh, it would be. I fell into conversation with a woman who was walking for her aunt whom she barely ever knew. Her aunt and her mother had been very close and when the aunt died, well, the mother was never the same after that and is still something of a wreck to this day. There’s this idea that loved ones will somehow “get better” or “recover” but it’s just not like that. Again and again, I hear of people not getting better, just getting different forever. So this woman was walking as a Mother’s Day present to her mom, to try to raise some money and awareness. Her friend was walking with her because she was her friend. The Overnight wasn’t all people who directly lost someone, the crowd contained many people who have been rocked by the ripples.

Across the freaky Amgen bridge on Elliott Avenue, south on Elliott past the Baskin-Robbins, then back up Queen Anne to Mercer and I met some people from Wisconsin (they didn’t need to tell me they were from Wisconsin, I’ve learned the accent). They walked for cousins and friends, one of whom had served in Iraq and then took his own life. One very cheerful young woman also walked for herself. She was bipolar and diagnosed with PTSD. I didn’t ask what caused the PTSD. “I have to work pretty hard!” she said, cheerfully.

Down Mercer, by this time it was quite dark, to Westlake and the next rest stop where a woman in a Pittsburgh Pirates shirt approached me. “Are you John Moe?” she asked. Yeah, I am, I said. She had read my book and turned out to be this huge fan. She brought her husband over, also dressed in Pirates gear, he had also read my book and said he loved it. “Get off my lawn!” he yelled, citing a chapter where I go to a shooting range, a chapter he said was his favorite. I didn’t tell him that, six months after the book was published, my brother died at a shooting range. Didn’t want to bum him out. He had lost his father two months after his wedding. That happens a lot, I’m told. Babies are born, weddings and graduations happen, suicides of family members. His dad was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan, thus the gear. The shirts, the beads, all part of the weight we carry.

North on Westlake and I talk to a woman from Portland. Maybe 50 years old. She was walking for her father who died on Christmas Day when she was 16. She found him. “I’m amazed you can even walk at all, let alone in this,” I said. Four months ago, she lost a nephew as well. Her friend asked me a lot of questions about how Rick acted before he died. She has family members who she feels may be in a dangerous situation and so she keeps her cell phone close at all times and was interviewing whoever she could find to look for clues.

Across the Fremont Bridge. Fremont (Seattle’s Berkeley if that helps) was having their annual festival so there was a celebratory mood in the air. An SUV drove by and, seeing all the people in Mardi Gras beads, a young woman yelled, “Whoo! Show me yours and I’ll show you mine!” No thanks. I wonder if she ever found out what the beads were for. I kind of hope not. Or maybe she meant, “Show me your deep psychological wounds and yearning for catharsis and I’ll show you mine!” and she just didn’t have time to get all that out as the SUV drove past. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.

At about mile 9 at this point. 11 more to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

He's at the what club now?

Karl Rove gives tips to Republicans on how to characterize Obama:

"He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

I think that's going to go over big.

GOP: Hear that, America? He's THAT guy at the country club!
AMERICA: What? I don't belong to a country club! I don't know what you're talking about!
GOP: Oh, you know, it's like you've just finished a round of golf at the club and you're having a cigar and you're talking about the merger deal and this guy comes up--
AMERICA: I'm sorry, I don't have time to talk right now, they're foreclosing on my house. I have to go.


The Overnight, chapter 1

Warning: I'll be doing some recaps of the Overnight walk I did this past weekend. There will be very few jokes. There will be higher word counts. Shorter posts with more jokes will be interspersed.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the walk didn't start for five hours so after registering at Seattle Center's Center House I was just going to leave for a while, get some dinner, a bucket of coffee. But I noticed a lot of people who seemed connected to the walk were milling about the Mural Amphitheater and wearing beads, like plastic Mardi Gras beads. Awfully festive for a suicide walk, I thought. Turns out everyone is asked to wear beads corresponding to how suicide has been a part of their lives. So if you lost a child to suicide, white beads. A parent? Gold beads. Purple was for people who lost a friend. Red for people who lost a spouse or partner. If you have battled depression personally, you wore green. Everyone got blue also for supporting the cause. I went to the table and accepted a blue strand as well as an orange one, which was the color for people who have lost siblings.

All who registered for the walk had been given white paper bags. These would eventually have candles placed inside them and be placed on the ground where the walk ended. Walkers were asked to personalize them in some way and many people had attached photos or art work. I had my bag but had not decorated it. I didn't know what to say. I went up to the table where we were supposed to drop them off. They had magic markers there so I grabbed one and wrote:

"Rick Moe
8-24-62 - 4-4-07"

And handed it in and walked away. About 100 feet away I remembered something and walked back and had the volunteer dig out the bag. I added "Father" after "Friend". Rick's daughter Sophia was born three months after he died.

Then I went to get some Pad Thai. And insoles for my shoes. And that bucket of coffee.

When I returned to the Seattle Center at around 6:30 that evening I noticed all the teams. Groups of people seated on the lawn together in matching t-shirts that depicted who they were walking for. Pictures pinned to backs, pictures held on sticks, pictures clutched in hands. Pictures of young men, middle-aged women, elderly people, more young men. Lots of young men. I realized that most people on this walk are walking with someone else – friends, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Me, I’m walking alone. I’m alone. It would have been nice to be with someone for this thing but then again, we all ultimately walk through the experience alone so I might as well walk through this alone.

There were about 1100 walkers in all and all wearing beads so just by looking at people you knew a lot about the most horrible day of their lives. So that lady lost her child. That guy lost a parent. The other fellow battled depression. And everyone wore beads. Suicide and depression is something people kept hidden most of the time but here it was all out in the open. Before the walk started someone got up and spoke. She had lost a son and had done several walks. She said that on her first walk she didn’t talk to anyone, the pain was too great. But in later walks she found that her pain was so great she had to talk to people and her pain was so great she had to hear other people’s stories. She encouraged us all to talk to each other out there.

Soon we were off, leaving Seattle Center and heading south on 2nd toward downtown. An older woman walking next to me asked who I was walking for. “My brother,” I said. I was hesitant to say much more but only for a few seconds and then I told her everything. She was wearing a green t-shirt with a picture of a young man on it. She wore white beads. “Tell me about your son,” I said. She told me about Rob.

“He died when he was 22 years old,” she said. “He would have been 33 next week.” She didn’t say this with sorrow or tears or pride or anything. She said this as a fact. He would have been 33. He never got to be 33.

I’ll stop there. More soon and photos.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Question

Quick question cause I gotta run.

If you could join the cast of one television program for the period of one month, what program would it be? I'm not talking about being an actor here, I mean literally joining their world and being a character in it. When the month was over, you would return to your regular life and no time would have passed. But for that month, you could be in the universe of The Muppet Show or Laverne & Shirley or According to Jim or whatever.

What show?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More Obama Rumors

from Slate.


There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.



Two Days...

until the Overnight walk that I've been telling you so much about. I fly to Seattle tomorrow via the obscure but strangely popular Sun Country Airlines. The training for the walk is complete after a 17 miler last Saturday, after which I walked around like Redd Foxx for the rest of the day. These last couple of days I've even been driving in to work so as not to risk sudden weird injuries.

You can hear a radio show about the issue of suicide and the walk on KUOW 94.9 in Seattle on Friday morning at 9 pacific. Weekday with Steve Scher will be talking about it. My own Weekend America will also be running a story on this week's show. We had a reporter in New York for the first Overnight walk on the 7th of June and she followed a family that lost a son to suicide. He was a veteran of the Iraq war. By the way, we are on pace to lose more soldiers to suicide than to combat fatalities in this war.

Sorry, no jokes here. Just my gratitude for all your support.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Public Service

I won't be seeing The Happening for many reasons:
1. It's not based on What's Happening (Rerun is not involved).
2. I don't much care for suicide as entertainment.
3. I don't much care for really sucky movies as entertainment.

But there is fun to be had in the mocking of really reeeeeally bad movies. But even then, you have to watch them, right? Wrong. Christopher Orr of The New Republic has a spoiler-intensive guide to the most dumbass moments in The Happening so you can mock without enduring the film itself. Whew!


Friday Question

Can people change?


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Way Others See It

I didn't think they were even serving up the quote cups anymore but Samantha, who is pensive, got one. Here's the thing, though: often when people get my Starbucks cup and blog about it, they talk about every other book under the sun. How about MY BOOK, pensive Samantha? Buy that one!

Monday, June 09, 2008


My friend Mike has a friend and this friend's dog is named Chris. Chris the dog. Obviously this is the greatest dog name of all time.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Question

Let's do more algebra. That was fun. Wow, never thought I'd put those sentences together. (Damn you, Mr. Presas at Sacajawea Jr. High!).

Last week we talked about things that you just couldn't enjoy even though other people did. The response was great although just a tad, shall we say, fueled by white hot rage. So we'll go positive this week.

You have a music collection, whether you use the Compacted Disc format still or the iTunes or the what have you. And there's something in there that if some people spotted it, well, they'd make fun of you. Something cheesy, something out of style, something that may have been a little out of style even when it was in style. BUT YOU DON'T CARE WHAT PEOPLE SAY BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT.

And sure, yeah, it might not be the latest hip band like Oh My God There's Something Wrong At The Disco or that other band There's A Fire In The Arcade Run For Your Lives, but it's music that you like. Maybe you're ashamed of it and love it anyway or MAYBE there's no shame at all. Let's tear down the wall here. Let's proclaim our love for the music that the cool kids say we shouldn't like. Let's put the system on trial.

"You might make fun of me for having z in my music collection but I am proud of it!"

What does z equal?

I had to use a new variable in the question because X is already a band.

For me?
z= Meat Loaf. I can't consume Meat Loaf every day but sometimes a big helping of the Loaf just hits the spot. I love Loaf. And that cell phone commercial never happened.

Here's Meat looking all sweaty and dangerous.

And here's a picture of a sunrise on Mars. Not related to the topic but, you know, hey wow.