Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve 2008

Two years ago tonight, my wife and I were in Ashland, Oregon for Neale Donald Walsch's Recreating Yourself retreat. Here is what I experienced at the New Year Eve's Dinner:

That evening, there was a big dinner planned at the Ashland Springs Hotel for all attendees who agreed to pay the extra $45 for it. As far as I'm concerned, no meal is worth $45, so the wife and I didn't sign up for it. We planned to get a burger at Louie's while everyone else ate like there was no recession. Imagine our surprise when we were told that someone had offered to pay for the meals of 4 attendees who couldn't afford to go. On the next break, I went to the back room and said we were interested in attending on a "scholarship" basis.

We gussied up a tad before heading to the banquet hall. We arrived about 15 minutes after the scheduled start (this was intentional as I knew there was to be some socializing before any food was served). I asked a maitre'd if I could have a soft drink. He responded that the agreement was just that they have coffee and water available. What a rip-off! I told my wife I was going to get something liquidy out of the vending machine.

I found a dispenser on the 3rd floor (it was just outside). This was actually the 2nd time I'd been serviced by the machine; we'd been there the night before to find some chocolate to munch on before going to sleep. It was there that we petted a cat, a cat that we found out was the hotel's (shades of the shop cats we'd seen over the past few days). The cat was there yet again as I put money in for a 20 ounce container of Gatorade (I also got some juice for my beloved).

Upon my return, I found a seat and asked for a cup of ice in which to put my tasty beverage. Ah, that's much better now. I feel almost human. A few minutes later, we got in the buffet line. Neale hadn't shown yet, but had every right to be fashionably late. I'm a relatively small portion guy, so just took some chicken, a bit of mashed potatoes and something else that escapes my mind at the moment (I knew I shoulda took more detailed notes).

My wife piled it on as she was aiming to get her money's worth. We sat down and began eating. The chicken wasn't bad, but it was several degrees inferior to what was served at our wedding 10 years prior. The other stuff was mostly rubbish. I wondered if any of the others felt the same. No one was letting on at this point.

Neale and his life partner entered the room shortly thereafter. Neale was wearing a snazzy black leather jacket; very hip, I have to say. He was sitting in the table behind us, no more than 12 feet from me. He didn't make any grand statements, just ate quietly with the people who had been fortunate enough to sit at the "right" table.

I tried two desserts hoping for better luck, but again, both were shit. My wife actually liked one of the items I didn't have the heart to finish. She didn't even drink the juice I'd bought her (perhaps peer pressure led her to drink the water others were having). There was decent conversation as we got to know a few of the people at our table better. One lady was wondering what Neale thought about 2012. I just shook my head.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Night To Remember

I've made more than 700 postings here at Minnesota Meanderings. Here is the 6th post I made (more than 4 years ago):

"In 1981, our family was on vacation in Wisconsin. Mom had agreed to take us kids to a movie. I wanted to see "The Empire Strikes Back" for the millionth time. Mom suggested we go see the new comedy with Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher instead. I reluctantly agreed and was very pleasantly surprised. In fact, for the next two hours, we were all rolling in the aisles as we watched "Under the Rainbow".

It's not on DVD yet, but Warner Brothers does have plans to release it in the near future."

Up until last night, I hadn't seen the film since, probably 1987; it was on USA one night that year and my sister said she wanted to watch it.

That's more than 20 years for a movie that I'm reminded of every now and then. Many times, when I hear someone say "cable", I think back to the part in the movie where some midgets take some cable from the top of an elevator shaft and the black elevator operator laughs as the little people leave with it. The man then says, as he shuts the doors and presses the button to go down, "Talkin' about the cable...the cable...ahhhhh" as he crashes into the basement of the hotel and comes out a midget himself; he was full-grown before the fall. Imagine how it felt to know that another on has the exact same experience.

I know most of you have no idea what movie I'm even talking about, so here are a few minutes from the movie's climax to give you a taste of what it had goin' on.

The movie didn't come out on DVD as soon as I was hoping. In fact, it still hasn't had a proper DVD release. I read earlier this year that it was available at WarnerArchive as a DVD that had apparently been ripped; it can't be watched on DVD recorders. The going price was about $25 with shipping.

For years, when looking at pawn shops or thrift stores, I would take a quick look through the videotapes to see if it was there. It never happened, so I felt it was time to take matters into my own hands when I saw that it could be had for $18. It arrived by mail on Christmas Eve and I did a little 360 in celebration as I went back inside.

While seeing my mom that evening, I mentioned the film and showed her the DVD box, but she had no memory of it. While there, I found out that one of my half-sisters has a cat that is named "Monster". As a joke, I said, "Is that because of the Lady Gaga song?"; I knew she liked Gaga. Her answer was "Yes" and I was like, "OMG!"

My love affair with 1981 (the year "Rainbow" came out) continued when my mom gave me one of the things I'd requested for Christmas: The Complete Making of Indiana Jones which is primarily about the making of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" which also came out in '81.

I wound up watching "Rainbow" in the bedroom as it couldn't be watched in the family room where we have a DVD recorder. My love let me watch it on my own while she viewed other programming. Lines that went over my head as a youngster were now all too clear such as when Chevy Chase is lying on Carrie Fisher and she says, "Is that your gun?" His reply: "I'm wearing a shoulder holster".

Had I the ability to tell my 10-year old self that he would still be enjoying "Rainbow" at the age of 40, I'm sure he would have been more than a little surprised.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Backyard Shenanigans

Watching football last night, I saw a commercial for a game being played this evening between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. It was noted that this would be the first time the Vikings would be playing an outdoor game in Minnesota since December 20, 1981 (they've played in a dome since then, a dome that collapsed earlier this month due to the heavy amount of snow that fell).

They also showed a few seconds of that last game, played where the Mall of America is now located. The quarterback for Minnesota back then was Tommy Kramer.

I liked how we had the same first name.

This was right around the time that I was getting into the NFL. My dad and uncle helped explain to me how the game worked. At my grandma's, there were a number of Sports Illustrated issues from the Vikings glory years (the mid-70's) when they went to four Super Bowls.

Looking to get my mitts on as much info about the game as possible, I bought a paperback book that had all the major NFL records in it; it told me who all the past Super Bowl winners were, which quarterback had the most passing yards (the Vikings' 70's QB, Fran Tarkenton), and how to have sex with a cup on.

I had a game I liked to play with myself in the backyard. We had a one-car garage and I'd take a tennis ball and glove and throw the ball onto the garage's shingles; the garage had a slant to it. I would aim for a specific row and then try to catch the ball as it came down. Sometimes I would aim for the highest row (closest to the other side) without the ball going over. Playing there, I was actually in the neighbors' yard, but they didn't seem to mind.

It was while walking around to the other side of the garage that I had one of the scariest moments of my life. It was close to dusk and as I passed the entrance to the garage's shed, a mass of black flew not a foot in front of me. It had come out of the shed's broken window, a cat, it turned out to be.

I also recall playing a game of croquet with my family in that back yard. My parents had bought a nice set and we had a good time. I don't remember playing again, however. Is it because we didn't or because the other times weren't as memorable as the others? Same thing for a supper we had on our picnic table in the backyard. During that supper, Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" played.

There was also a good deal of excitement the day our parents bought us a deluxe swing set. Not only did it have the swings, but also a slide, one of those metal bar things that girls can dangle from (precursor to the stripper pole), and a 2-seat device that could go back and forth. I was a bit big for the contraption when it arrived, but had to admit that it was a nice addition to the yard. Truth be told, I probably had more fun grabbing a portion of the new circular clothesline we had and spinning it clockwise or counter, depending on my mood. I had zero interest in the garden my mother tended though the rhubarb it produced was fantastic.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last-Minute Christmas Thoughts

With Christmas less than a week away, it went through my mind last night that not only is telling kids that Santa Claus exists an affront to a parent's duty to be truthful to their children, so too, is the Nativity story most likely a fiction.

Of course, I believe that peace and good will to men is an excellent precept year-round, but there have been too many instances where the founder of a religion is given a birth story that defies logic. Jesus is no less a good man by not having been born to a virgin or under a bright star.

Though they lean too much on the Christmas story, I do enjoy listening to Xmas music this time of year. I have more than four dozen Christmas CD's and it's quite an effort to get through most of them in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I usually listen to one in the morning while showering and shaving, another in the car while going to work and doing other errands, and, of course, while wrapping Christmas presents.

I was able to add two more to my collection this year for a minimal price; I went to a pawn shop a few months ago and got Elvis and Josh Groban's collections for a dollar apiece. One of my favorite discs is Tori Amos's from last year. It has a number of songs that reference the winter solstice, something that preceded the Jesus story. Here's a link to one of my favorites.

Lastly, I was at Kmart last week and noticed a woman dressed all in black in one of those burqa-thingies. A number of years ago, I walked around our town's lake and when I encountered one of them, typically walking behind their husband, I would lift my eyebrows as if to say, "Damn, girl, you're HOT!!"

At the store last week, I didn't see her with anyone. Perhaps she was doing some Christmas shopping or whatever holiday it is that they celebrate. What caught my eye, though, was what she had in her hand and wound up checking out with: some kind of perfume or body spray called Sexual Fantasies. I was taken for a loop and thought, "Repressed MUCH?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Visit to a Hindu Temple

On the recommendation of a friend who had read my book, I made a visit to the town's Hindu temple two weeks ago. This friend felt that although my belief system lined up with Buddhism, I might get something out of going to what amounted to a Hindu Bible study. He had been attending for the past couple months. Knowing that life begins at the end of one's comfort zone, I agreed.

While getting ready, I decided to go for something a bit more formal than what I typically wear: black dress shoes and black corduroys. I arrived about 25 minutes before the service was to start. As I stepped inside, I saw an Indian lady at the door. I said, "Hi", but she didn't say anything back. She headed downstairs as I took off my coat.

It was then that I noticed the sign that said one must remove their shoes before entering the inner sanctuary; my friend had said that I would have to take them off, but I'd conveniently forgotten. My feet get cold easily, so I was a tad nervous about making it a full hour without any coverings, other than my socks, that is.

As I walked into the temple proper, I saw an Indian and a Honky talking quietly. I was a bit floored (pun intended) when I saw that there were no chairs in there (save for half a dozen on the left side of the room). I let the two gentlemen continue their discussion while I sat on the floor cross-legged. I looked around the room which had about a dozen various Hindu deities with an equal number of candles lit next to them. I pretended to meditate while I waited for others, including my friend, to arrive.

After a time, the white guy got up and greeted me. A tad older than I, he was a former Christian who had justifyingly grown dissatisfied with the faith. As he looked at "the gods" we were surrounded by, he said he didn't know any of the names of them, but was looking forward to learning. That is one aspect that can be cool about a new faith: learning its history and traditions. I could tell that this man was very earnest in his search and saw a bit of myself from my college days.

My friend arrived a few minutes later and gave me an extra copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the scripture we would be studying.

I quickly headed downstairs to the bathroom before things got going. There wound up being six males for the study, three crackers and three of the Indian persuasion. One man led the study by reading a number of verses from the Gita and then elaborating on what they meant. Throughout the hour, I was tempted, sitting on the floor, to spread my legs out, but knew that that would be a no-no, so continued to sit Indian-style (more puns) as time went by. One thing was certain: I was going to have better posture coming out of this thing.

There were a number of points brought up that I was in hearty agreement with, things like it takes more than one life to experience all there is to know about the human experience and that one's misery can be greatly reduced by detaching from things having to go a certain way in one's life. It was also acknowledged that God is in everything, including dogs (there's no doubt of that in my mind). Another thing I liked was that there was no talk of Jesus as these scriptures were written hundreds of years before God had his way with Mary. Jesus is cool, but he is pre-dated by a huge percentage of respective human history and evolution.

As time went on, the room got steadily darker, so dark, in fact, that it was becoming difficult to see the others' faces. I wondered if/when someone was going to turn on the lights. A few minutes later, the women and children, who had been playing downstairs, came up to close the service. One of the women turned on the lights as the others got in line to praise a favorite deity. I stood in back and watched this take place. A song was also sung by the group before we finally adjourned.

Just before leaving, I told my friend that I had enjoyed the service. He asked if I would return. I said I wasn't sure. I shook the hand of the other white guy and wished him good luck on detachment; it was something he said he was working on.

Next, I arranged to meet my wife at Famous Dave's. Being Jewish, she said her parents would have a fit if they knew she went to a Hindu temple. The good vibes from the service apparently were making an impact as I felt like smiling while sitting at the restaurant. As we began eating our entrees', I saw a number of wet spots on my upper shirt. I couldn't figure out where the hell they would've come from. I smelled them and looked a bit closer at the color before realizing that it was corn juice; it had sprayed from my love's mouth to the collar of my shirt. Fifteen minutes later, without doing a thing, the stain had faded.

My good mood continued as we finished up. At the table next to us, a couple were having burgers. I laughed out loud as the woman squirted an almost-empty ketchup bottle onto her cowpie and it made the sound of a juicy fart.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Obligatory Christmas Post

For the second year in a row, I won't be getting Christmas cards for the people with whom I'll be celebrating on Christmas Eve. Not only is it a waste of money (as most people toss the cards, anyway), but the thought of trees dying so that I can say, "I love you" to loved ones just doesn't work for me, especially since it can be done without negatively impacting the environment.

The wife and I have decided, for the first time, not to exchange any gifts this year, though I did pick up a DVD I think she'll like at Wal-Mart yesterday. Giving her a list of three to five things that I want and then acting surprised when she buys me a couple of them, well, I'm just not in the mood for such games. I told her that if she does find something that she thinks I'll like, to pick it up, but be sure to save the receipt.

My mom has taught me a good strategy for making gift-opening a bit more fun. Many times when she gives out presents, she'll have them wrapped in a box for a completely different product. I'll be getting her this time as I wrapped a 6-pack of socks that I bought her in the box for a digital camera, and it looks perfect, like it really is the camera that she's getting.

To give you an idea of what Christmas Eve is typically like for me, here is video from our 2005 celebration:

Monday, December 06, 2010

Entry From My Wife's Journal

Tom proposed on Saturday, November 15, 1997, at the Valley View Mall in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

We ate lunch at the Olive Garden prior to him popping the big question. I ate angel hair pasta, warm freshly baked breadsticks, and white grape "love" juice (italian) delicioso! Tom ate, yes, you guessed right, pizza italiano, breadsticks, and white grape juice "the love juice!"

The engagement ring is beautiful. 1/4 carat mounted in a cathedral setting. Flawless, and I might add, very sparkly. I am a nurse and many of my patients, along with dear family and friends, have made endless comments about the ring's beauty.

(Editor's note: Tom actually proposed in the mall parking lot, having chicken-shitted out from doing it at the Garden).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Meandering Questions

My other half (I actually don't believe in an "other half"; I feel we are complete just as we are, though having another in which to share our completeness is a blessed thing) finally began reading my book last week.

The below pic is on the back cover with the caption:

"With my two favorite people, "--- ---- and Neale Donald Walsch"

I laid on the sofa with the TV turned down a bit as she sat on the recliner reading the 397-page tome. She had a number of interesting comments and questions to make as she plowed through the first 100 pages. Here are a few of the more notable ones:

"Do you know how to play Cribbage?"

"Now I know why you don't like to go swimming."

"I didn't know you were Catholic."

"You should change the part where it says 'colored teenager' to 'black teenager.'"

"What does 'quietude' mean?"

"Did your mom ever catch you masturbating? Did your brothers?"

"Now I know why you don't wear deodorant."

"Why don't you chew gum anymore?"

"Did you sneak into the study last Christmas to get a peek at the presents I bought you?"

"You didn't go to your high school graduation?"

"Why did you write that biking made you unable to father children?"