Wednesday, April 30, 2008


When you live somewhere for a long time you get used to seeing the same people over and over. So when you move somewhere new, I think you instinctively look for those same people. They're not there, of course. So you start to find people like them. Last night I went with my friend Michael to the Town Talk Diner and I'll be darned if the waiter wasn't Minnesota Matthew Baldwin. It's turned into a whole thing around here. Jill and I will be out somewhere and she'll say, "Hey look, there goes Minnesota John Smersh!"
"Yep, he's talking to Minnesota Steve Scher," I'll reply.
It's like my whole life has been recast and staged like they do on America's Most Wanted. Still murder-free for the moment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Me and my impossible to avoidedness

Ways you can load up on more me than you'll ever need.
1. I hosted Weekend America today. I talked to the 2007 Mr. Irrelevant and chronicled a cross country drive with my hamster.
2. I was recently a guest on The Sound of Young America, talking to both Jesse Thorn the host and also to young america. It's in the archives. Hunt. If you want. If you don't know about this radio program, please learn.
3. Twitter. I twitter. When I remember. And I keep getting new subscribers. These are people who want access to brief things I say. You can evidently be one of these people. Although honestly between the blog, Facebook, various freelance writing and, well, MY RADIO JOB, I'm running out of things to say. Like a while ago.
4. The Seattle Times asked me to write a breakup letter to Seattle. I did. I've never been paid to break up with someone before.
5. We're home most nights. Come by!

UPDATE: My breakup letter to Seattle is presently the #1 most e-mailed and #3 most read article at This means that torrents of hate mail and angry letters to the editor are about to come gushing forth. And yes, it bears some resemblance to a blog posting of a while back.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Question

We've all heard the question about what music you would take if you were to be stranded on a desert island. That's ridiculous, though. That kind of thing never happens. I've got a better idea.

1. Let's say the laws that govern our universe were suddenly and radically altered specifically in regard to music.

2. Let's further say that an eccentric authoritarian government was able to seize power over every aspect of our lives for precisely one year, after which point their power would expire and everything would go back to the way it was. There is no doubting their power and also no doubting it's precise one-year time line.

3. This government then issues a decree: you must select one band or artist. The music of that band or artist will be the only music you hear for precisely one year, the duration of this government's odd power.

4. You will have no control over which song you hear at a given time. It will be a shuffle of the entire catalog. You can simply choose to listen to music or not to.

5. Often, however, music just occurs during the course of life. So let's say you go with REM. When a child sings Happy Birthday, you will instead hear, say, Cuyahoga. And not kids singing that song, I'm talking about the original REM recording emanating from the children's mouths. The "I'm Lovin' It" commercial jingle for McDonald's might become Gardening at Night. Someone walking down the street with their lips in a pucker will not make a whistling sound, they will producing the full recorded version of maybe Oddfellows Local 151. Every cell phone ring tone is REM.

6. Other people will hear different music of their own choosing.

7. You have no volume control.

8. Again, after one year all will return to normal and your catalog expands once again.

So. You must pick a band or an artist that will be your entire musical experience for one year.

Factors to consider:
a. How expansive is the catalog of work from this music provider? Are there recordings you're unfamiliar with?

b. Considering there's a decent chance you get sick of them, is it a music provider you're willing to risk hating/resenting for the rest of your life?

c. How dynamic is this music provider? Do they represent a multitude of moods and genres or are they one kind of music all the time?

So the question is: Which band or artist do you choose to be your only source of music for a period of one year?

Also, one more thing: this eccentric authoritarian government wants you to explain your choice. If you don't pick anyone, they will automatically assign you Big Country.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

THOSE books

Jeannie over at DEFCON House has some thoughts on those books where people go off to do wonderful things in pastoral locations and their lives are much better and happier than yours and then you're supposed to buy their book to give them more money as they recline on a divan in Provence while you have to catch the fucking bus to go to your fucking job.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Bonus Coverage

I stopped blogging the thoughts of Charlie (Age 7) a while ago. But I am powerless to stop myself from posting the conversation of this morning.

HIM: Dad, do you believe in heaven?
ME: Well, I don't know. I've seen no proof for or against it.
HIM: But I don't believe in the other place. The devil place. It doesn't make sense. Why would the devil want to torture people he supported before?
ME: Good question.
HIM: And who's in charge of heaven?
ME: God. That's what they say.
HIM: I don't think He is in charge because He has too much other stuff to do.
ME: So he's in more of an executive position and someone else runs the day to day operations of heaven?
HIM: Yeah. I think a fairy, probably.
JILL: Female or male?
HIM: Male fairy. And what do you think heaven's like?
ME: No idea.
HIM: I hope it's not old fashioned girl stuff. Like, I don't know, unicorns and beautiful peacocks and flamingos in tutus.

Friday question below.

Friday Question: Convenientpowers!

(a weekly feature, at least until I start forgetting to post it or lose interest)

What makes a superhero so super? And heroic? Superpowers, that's what. Abilities that far outstrip the capacity of mere mortals. For the big names, this is stuff like flying, bulletproofness, lightning speed. But where does that leave the rest of us?

I was talking to my friend Larry the other night and he was explaining how he had two notable abilities.

1. He watches a TV show. Commercial break comes on. He changes the channel to watch something else. THEN! He switches back to the original show RIGHT EXACTLY when the program resumes! He doesn't miss a thing!

2. This one's a little less useful, relying as it does on out of date technology. Driving in a car, listening to music on cassette, song comes on he doesn't like so much, Larry hits fast forward and is able to stop the tape and hit Play RIGHT EXACTLY as the next song begins.

These superpowers won't earn Larry his own comic book or action figure but they are small examples of how a person can skillfully gain an advantage over the petty challenges the day presents. I guess they're less "super" powers than they are "convenient" powers.

Convenientpowers! The mundane real world version of superpowers!

The Question is this: What is your greatest convenientpower?

Together we will form a sort of superfriends! Well, convenientfriends anyway.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Election

I'm not going to publicly endorse one candidate over the other. Journalism and all that. But I will say this: if McCain wins, that means Darrell Hammond stays on Saturday Night Live for another four years AT LEAST. If you're of the opinion that it was time for Hammond to go at least four years ago, please consider that on election day.

(and surely someone, besides Fred Armisen, can be found who can find something in Obama to make fun of.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Song from Kate (Age 5)

From down the hallway, we hear Kate (who is a dwarf) singing a new song to herself.

ME: What's that song you're singing, Kate?

KATE: It's about dwarfs! But it's like "George of the Jungle". Goes like this!

"Dwarfs, dwarfs, dwarfs, dwarfs, dwarfs dwarfs dwarfs dwarfs.



ME: "Watch out for that dwarf"?

KATE: No! "Watch out for that tree, dwarfs!"

Yep. Watch out for that tree, dwarfs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Guys In Skates I May Love

So I live in St Paul now (official city motto: "We Seem Nice But Are Evidently Intent On Killing You With Our Cars"). It's trouble with my sports teams. The Mariner games don't start until 9pm local time so I don't know what happened until the next morning usually. And the Sonics? O, woe.

But I am becoming increasingly intrigued by the Minnesota Wild of the NHL. It's hockey! And they're up 2-1 over the Colorado Avalanche.

I've watched much of each playoff game, all of which have gone into overtime. I've even seen goals scored. I have begun to recognize player names like Koivu, Gaborik, and Demetra. But really only those three. Oh! And Rolston also.

I dig the pace, the drama, and the sweaters but I still don't know anything. I don't know what anything means in a game, don't know why all the fans start yelling for no apparent reason sometimes, am years away from knowing what an icing penalty is.
But I am fascinated by it. I stare slack-jawed while others understand.

Hockey to the rest of Minnesota is LA Confidential:

Hockey to me is more like Boobah:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Things Learned

That's what it's about, right? Learning things? Here are things that people have learned in their lives so far.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Question

(a weekly feature, at least until I start forgetting to post it or lose interest)

Let's switch over to movies this week.

You're traveling. Alone. You're in a hotel and you've got some time to kill. Maybe it's evening. Maybe it's morning and you don't have anywhere to be until 1pm or something. Regardless: alone and spare time. So you watch TV. And you're flipping around the various channels and you come upon THAT ONE MOVIE. The movie that you know you're going to get sucked in to watching even though you've seen it before. Maybe many times. But you just throw the remote over your shoulder because you know you won't watch anything else when that movie is on. It has power over you.

This week's question: What is your toss-the-remote movie? The one that saps your free will and makes you watch.

I'll go first. Back to the Future. I have to watch it. And I think it's for all the little moments. George McFly falling out of a tree, Marty being mistaken for a sailor in a life jacket, Marvin Berry calling his cousin Chuck, Biff's comeuppance. Knowing that there's always a moment like that around the corner means I can't leave the set.

Moving up fast on the list: Ocean's 11. Soderbergh/Clooney/Pitt/Bernie Mac version. Again, too many perfect moments to steer away from. Damon in the bar in Chicago, the Mormon brothers racing cars, Pitt and Clooney wondering if ten would be enough but maybe they need one more. Don Cheadle's terrible dialect which isn't really a moment but just a hilarious abomination. Enough perfect moments that I can endure Julia Roberts angry giraffe-like performance.

Again: What is your toss-the-remote movie?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Playoffs start tonight!

In St Paul! With the Minnesota Wild taking on the Colorado Avalanche! I hope that Lemaire has his boys ready and that Gaborik and Demitra really come through. And...that they all skate...good. Also that whoever is the guy in front of able to catch

Still trying to adjust.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oh yeah, forgot to mention

The big box of stuff. What started with a frustrated posting here, ended with a radio story here.

Listen, if you'd like to pick over the remains of

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Question

(a weekly feature, at least until I start forgetting to post it or lose interest)

Let's stay with music for a little while. A two-parter:
What was your first favorite band or solo artist? Talking about the musical entity that first made you aware of artist identity. The one that lifted you beyond having a favorite song to having a favorite singer/guitarist/drummer/electric flautist.

Second part: How's that holding up for you? Are they still beloved? Scorned? Little of both? Can you listen to them at leisure or only in a setting of nostalgia?

I'll go first. Fleetwood Mac. I don't know how the Rumours album happened to come into my life but man I wore that dang thing out on my little turntable. Memorized lyrics, stared at the hirsute males in the band and their spangly multi-frocked female counterparts/companions/lovers/ex-lovers/who could even keep track. There's all this stuff in there about sex and cocaine and betrayal and it all flew FAR above my head but all those voices, all that emotion, and it sounded so adult! Nothing like the Candy Man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good (wait, what the hell kind of song is that anyway?).

Plus, obviously, hot for Stevie. Who wasn't? Turns out that originally the rest of the band wanted Lindsey Buckingham to join and NOT Stevie but he said either my girlfriend gets to be in or I won't go. Because, yeah, that's going to be a band headed for a smooth working relationship. Later, of course, she started sleeping with Mick Fleetwood, which is like hooking up with Sasquatch as opposed to Lindsey Buckingham who was more of a, I don't know, genteel Sasquatch.

But today? Can't really stay with them. I'm told Tusk is amazing but, yeah, well, can't do it. It would be like trying to rediscover one's love for Fonzie.

Are we seething with turmoil or just so completely massively 12 different kinds of stoned?

So again. Two part question:
What was your first favorite band or solo artist? How's that holding up for you?

Have at it!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The results of walking to and from work each day, which works out to about 6 miles a day.

1. I have not put gas in my car since it arrived in Minnesota. When it arrived it had about a quarter tank of gas.
2. My clothes fit better and in many cases are looser, especially in the pantsal region.
3. Exposure to the early spring snows and cold temperatures may have exacerbated this flu I got, which kicked my ass all over the place. One of those "what if this means I'm DYING" kinds of sick. Better now. Somewhat.

So, two out of three. And that ain't bad. Right, Meat Loaf?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Actually, we had a lovely time on the train

Although it's true that, as the photo would indicate, the children did become a tad restless.

So second part of the story. The house sold rather quickly, like I said, and we knew we had a closing date of 3/3. So we booked our train tickets for that afternoon. Understand that in late January, March 3rd can seem like a lifetime away. We slacked off about a week and then began packing, making phone calls, solving puzzling situations. It was exhausting in every single way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, uh...uh.. dermatologically! We got the flu. We got along. I went insane a few times.

I think I was prepared for the hard work but what took me by surprise was the psychic toll of all that is related to moving. More than once it felt like death: you say goodbye to people, you get your affairs in order, (loading up a moving truck - that part not so much), and you wait to be reborn in this other place that you don't really know all that well. Sometimes you have to go through your personal papers too. You break up your rock bands.

And the thing is, you really don't know how to pace it. I've never moved like this before. Does it require 12 hours of work per day? Two? By the time we got down to the final day, it was also down to the wire. We finished packing at about 3:24pm on 3/3. We had to leave for the train station by 3:30. Jill and I did a final moment in our house that was not unlike Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo checking out the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon's Vacation. Then, weeping, off to the train.

Hear me now: TAKE THE TRAIN. But also DO IT RIGHT. We had booked passage on the Empire Builder. It's a train financed by various neoconservative think tanks. Not really. But it is called the Empire Builder. Don't go coach, you'll never sleep. You get a sleeping compartment that converts by day into a regular compartment with seats, a conversion enabled by a porter. Getting said sleeping compartment means you're a First Class Passenger and thus your meals in the dining car are all covered (total bargain, by the way, if you book carefully it's not even very pricey). Best yet, the waitress in the dining car gets to know you over the course of the trip. "Pancakes and orange juice, Charlie?" she asks my much delighted boy.

But man, the train is great. Big windows, leisurely pace, and you get to see America from the ground. If you need a kid friendly adventure and you're not in a hurry, take the train. At least once.

We left Seattle around 5:45pm, dozed off around Moses Lake or Ellensburg even. Woke up in Glacier National Park with all its glacial majesty. Slept the second night somewhere in mid-North Dakota and woke up north west of the Twin Cities, arriving in St Paul around 9am. Stepped off a train and into our new life. Which felt infinitely cooler than walking out of a jetway and into the MSP airport terminal.

One regret: we didn't bring enough to read or play with. The kids had Pokemon DVDs, we had a few novels we had never read before (which turned out to be novels we still didn't want to read) and one New Yorker I grabbed from beside the bed on Monday afternoon. And it turns out the Havre train station doesn't exactly carry the Utne Reader. Or Sports Illustrated. Or anything. So we kind of had to make do. And we did. Train = awesome.

Then we got to our new house and the kids started playing in the snow. A practice that will continue on this the first day of April. There are several inches of freshly fallen from yesterday. No fooling on that one.

UPDATE: But no wi-fi on the train! Be warned!