Archive for July, 2010

Goodbye, Old Friend.


1991 – 2010
Best cat ever.

American Zombies.


I dunno.

Maybe it’s the heat or the road construction or some general incurable malaise, or maybe it’s just me, but has anyone else noticed how many zombies are among us? You know, like those ones who wander about town unable to speak or react in those old black and white movies? They’re everywhere these days. You don’t even have to go looking for them. They’ll find you!

What made me think of that is the current despicable McDonalds commercial where that American Zombie is unable to talk to anyone until he’s had his first cup of coffee. The only thing he can say is “Not till I’ve had my coffee,” which makes me want to cuff him one, but you know … zombies. They aren’t going to feel it. Then someone offers to sell him a cup, and he sort of comes alive, but not very much, and she’s probably only going to have her brain sucked out for her trouble. I hate that commercial. I hate that guy. I hate anyone who thinks they are unable to function without coffee. It’s not crack cocaine, fer chrissakes.

But I digress.

There are traffic zombies, and they are out in full force during construction. This must be zombie holiday time, because they congregate about one mile before the orange “merge” signs, stopping traffic on the freeway while they stare blankly at other zombies. Sometimes they will text someone or hold a phone to their ear, but you know they’re really just sort of empty inside, so they’re faking it. Most of them are slack jawed, staring straight ahead, oblivious to the world around them.

There are zombies in traffic who are unsure of lane choices during construction, so they straddle the middle line, a kind of  safe haven for the brainless, and honestly: even if they are driving a silver sports car and wearing an expensive suit, you can tell there’s nobody at home. “Something ain’t right in the upper story,” a friend of mine would say.

There are non-driving zombies, too (I guess they can’t all afford cars as zombie work may be hard to find) and so the non-driving ones can be seen anywhere in town during work traffic, walking into traffic from the middle of the block. They may be walking to the corner to use the light like a regular person, but suddenly they will make a turn and head into traffic. Some of them may be drinking coffee, though it’s not helping them to think. I suppose they rationalize like this: “What’s it gonna do, kill me?”

I can almost hear them laughing.

I talked to a zombie the other day in a local gift shop. I was looking for something specific so approached the counter, where he appeared to be writing in a journal. (“Dear Diary, Day 1,437, Still oblivious…”) When I asked for the gift item I was trying to find, he dropped his pen, stood up and said (and I swear I’m not making this up. You know who you are) “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” He then walked away from the counter.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to follow him or actually run out of the store screaming. I stood there for a while and he came back. Apparently they didn’t carry that item.

Some zombies on the way home were teaching their toddler to walk in a freeway on-ramp. It was not as charming as it sounds. Another zombie was fluffing her hair at a stop light, and when it changed to green she continued to fluff her hair. Her car moved slowly. Apparently zombies can knee drive.

So I dunno. Is it just me? Have you seen them? Are you one of them?

Wake up, America.

I am going to stock up on garlic cloves just to stay safe. (Is garlic the magic ward-off for zombies? Or is it a stake through the heart? I can’t remember.)

Garlic. Stakes. MMmmmmmm. I think I’ll stock up on garlic and steaks, and grill something great for dinner while I contemplate the state of the universe.

Happy weekend to you, whatever you may be!

Yard Sales and Road Food and Bears. Oh, My!


How can you even call it a summer without at least one road trip? That’s what my friends Tracy and Jessica and I thought a few weeks ago when we decided to head up the shore to Ely, Minnesota, to the North American Bear Center. I’m not sure they share my current obsession for bears, unlike the thousands of other viewers who check in on Lily and Hope each day, but they are good sports and it was a good destination spot, so on Saturday, June 26, we hit the road.

Not actually hit it so much as stop and go over it, what with the enticing yard sales going on between Duluth and Ely. Though we were prompt about meeting at my house at 8 a.m., we quit thinking about time once we got in the car. It was a day of adventure and the clock didn’t matter much, except at one point where Jessica said “You know, the Bear Center closes at 7:00, and we’re not even in Ely yet.” Though the distance between Duluth and Ely is approximately 130 miles, we weren’t setting any records for time or distance, unless there’s a record for “how many times can you distract yourself from one point to another, and for how long?”

Lots and lots, on both counts. We’d be in the Guinness book. But what fun!

Our first stop was a big yard sale not even 5 miles from town, where we began filling up Tracy’s car trunk with treasures: An artificial tree, a whatnot box constructed of yardsticks (hey, it was only 50 cents and I think I can use it!), some plastic flatware for the office kitchen, assorted flotsam and books that we were pretty sure we needed. We passed on the table of uniquely decorated gift cows, though we did wonder about them, and then hit the road. The next sale yielded nearly new cookbooks (fabulous ones for cheap!) and inexpensive kitchen utensils (including a can simple looking can opener that I do not know how to use) and an electric drill set without the electric drill (we passed on that one) and a Smokey Joe grill that I coveted but didn’t want to use up my one-third trunk space with something that might leave charcoal-y marks!, a bunch of metric wrenches which Wonder Woman Jessica can use around the house. (Metric? They come in metric? Why?)

Of course no road trip is complete without road food, so we stopped along the way to freshen up, which is girl talk for buying salty stuff and chocolate stuff and (oh, dear God, I must say this) beef jerky for Tracy. Beef Jerky has always been a joke with me, since the one time I tried it it tasted like super-spicy strips of shoe leather; something the Donner party might have rejected. (“Thanks, we’re hungry but we’ll find something else, I’m sure…”) In my mind it’s always been a “man” thing, so it prompted a conversation about whether or not women actually eat beef jerky, even though the woman sitting next to me in the car was living proof that they do. There are some mysteries in life I will never solve, like beef jerky and metric wrenches, but I can live with those.

In Beaver Bay we’d hoped to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, which was closed and which shall remain nameless so I can gripe about them a few paragraphs down. We stopped at the Mennonite grocery store; one of my favorite local stores which is relatively small and yet packed with more stuff that you can imagine, including all spices known to man, wonderful home made candies and bread, cheeses, jams and jellies, and every kind of mix you can imagine, individually packaged in plastic bags of cake, bread and cookie mixes, wild rice soup mixes, pudding mixes, pancake and waffle and frosting mixes, popcorn and candy and so much more. You have to see it to believe it. Though their prices are reasonable, bring lots of money. You’ll want some of everything. Did I mention the home made bread? I think it’s the kind of bread they must eat in Heaven.

Next stop was a sale at the Masonic Temple in Silver Bay, a small unobtrusive building that held tables of treasures in its basement. If you do not think small wax Pilgrim candles for 10 cents are a treasure, there is something wrong with your thinking. These were so old they still bore the 10 cent sticker from 60 years ago, and had never been burned, so how could I leave them behind? There was a lime green wicker basket I wish I’d bought, and a glass on a chain that Jessica bought, apparently so she can keep her hands free at parties to regale her friends with amazing stories (not like this one) and still not have to set her lemonade on anyone’s precious end table. It can just hang there, from her chest. You’d have to see it to appreciate it. (The glass on a chain, I mean.)

Ten miles down the road one of us decided we were on the wrong road (that person being me) and so we drove 10 miles back into town to figure out that we were indeed on the right road, and, well, isn’t that part of the fun of a road trip?

If you’ve never been to Ely, you really must go. A pretty small Minnesota town; green and spacious, with lots of good restaurants and places to eat, friendly people, outdoors outfitters for every adventure on your bucket list, and of course (drum roll) the North America Bear Center.

Beautiful Ted, who also enjoys a good photo opportunity.Here’s beautiful Ted, one of the largest bears in North American captivity,
who appreciates a good photo opportunity just as much as the next guy.

Oh, the bears! Camera-friendly Ted and Lucky and shy Honey, eager for lunch and human interaction, and they got plenty of both. There are educational videos all over the Center; helpful and friendly volunteers, a children’s room with bear displays, books and coloring opportunities, and Bearwalker films being played for those of us who felt like sitting down for a few minutes. It’s a great place to visit (with a great gift shop, let us not forget) and an inexpensive and rewarding afternoon. Take your kids!

We had lunch at Chocolate Mousse, where the food was good and the desserts were Paul Bunyan sized (and I wish I’d had one) and then perused  some of the unique gift shops. We drove around looking for more yard sales, but it was late in the afternoon so we decided to meander back home, planning to stop at my favorite place (rant to follow) for coffee and dessert and to see the most original bathroom on earth.

It’s a small place and probably easily manageable, but our waitress was having an off day, when she finally got to our table, and was in no mood for chit chat. Tracy and Jess decided to order dinner, but I only wanted a cup of wild rice soup (such a simple request, isn’t it?) and a piece of coconut cream pie. Miss No Nonsense informed me that they were only serving from the dinner menu (while my friends were actually ordering from the dinner menu) and she could bring me a bowl of soup, but not a cup. (Talk about your Seinfeld soup Nazis.) All the while cups of soup were whizzing past our table to other diners who apparently could get one by ordering dinner! (Suppose your dinner is just soup and pie? Huh? How about that?) But I didn’t argue with her. I could see “DON’T” written all over her face. I know that look. I’ve worn that look.)

The soup was good and worth ordering a bowl. The coconut pie never came. “Wouldn’t that be good with a bowl of coffee,” I mused.

I was sorry we went out of our way to get there (just as sorry as I hope she felt over the small tip) but it did not mar my enjoyment of a good road trip with good friends, or the bags of crap I pulled out of Tracy’s car when we finally got home.

It was a great day, and just about the most fun you can on a perfect summer day in Minnesota.

Go do it!

But eat at the Rustic Inn.

PS: On a serious note, many thanks to my dear friend Sharon in Ohio, who used my Father’s Day message at her Al-Anon meeting. I am so touched by that. I wish I’d been there to hear the conversation that ensued. Thanks again, Maude! Love you.