The Implications of an Early Spring

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It appears that winter on the plains is over. The forecast for the rest of this week is high 40s/low 50s. And next week the rains begin. Even if we were to get a storm it would likely be a dump of heavy wet snow that would melt again in a few days. Our days of frigid temperatures and steady snow are over. Now if it would just dry out enough to clean up the dog shit in the yard.

My wife has compiled a list of the vegetables she wants planted this spring, which means a ridiculous amount of work for me getting a fair amount of ground dug up and broken up. I will be planting those monster sunflowers again and we’ll see if the four o’clocks come back on the east flower bed.

I’ve got some work to do on the cars. We’ll be able to spend more time driving the Mercury Land Yacht, which gets somewhat better gas mileage than the Family Truckster. Both need oil changes, tires checked, etc. I’ll vacuum them both out this weekend. Pippin’s coarse hair is all over their interiors which reminds me that he needs some kind of homespun haircut. If it turns out to be as ugly as I expect it to be, I’ll post photos.

As always I welcome the change of seasons. This wasn’t a particularly long winter but it certainly was a brutal one.My wife has been very vocal about wishing for spring. So have the cats.

The nasty winter certainly didn’t help stem the collapse of the boom economy here. Restaurants in Williston and Tioga have closed up, the man camps have long been emptied, traffic is down, and several houses in town are for sale. Oil is a commodity and there’s a lot of it right now. We need the price to stabilize at $60 a barrel for several months before exploration kicks into gear again. Barring an adventure or mishap in the Middle East or god forbid, Russia, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So I can still drive to the farm without the possibility of getting rammed off the road by meth-addled truckers.

Time to put on my shoes, go outside, and survey the backyard. And smell the change in the air.

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I’ll Just Leave This Gem Right Here

The Dick Handler Quartet

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RIP Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry passed away this weekend at the ripe age of ninety.

There was a brief time in my high school days when me and my friends were fascinated by Chuck. Teenage rebellion and a love of rock ‘n roll were hard-baked into his lyrics. When you’re fifteen it was pretty hard to listen to something like “School Days” and not identify with the lyrics. Chuck walks you through a dreary day in high school and then dynamites the entire thing with a declaration that the kids have to rock. “Love live rock n’ roll” was a declaration, an act of youthful defiance, and Chuck knew it.

This was the thing about Chuck Berry. It wasn’t the flamboyant stage act or being the first guitar hero that made him a legend, it was the songs. Berry was first and foremost a songwriter. Bob Dylan didn’t call him “the Shakespeare of rock n’ roll” for nothing. His word play was sophisticated, his story-telling skills remarkable. He wrote memorable tales of high school, romance, triumphant country boys (translation: colored boys) who might become stars, automobile chases, and seat belts that wouldn’t budge. He wrote “Brown-eyed Handsome Man” a ditty that had the wife of (white) District Attorney freeing her black lover from jail and ended with Jackie Robinson hitting a home run. That’s a withering indictment/celebration of America right there.

Chuck was no saint. The saying goes that art would be great if it weren’t for artists and that was true here. He spent time in prison for transporting an underage prostitute across state lines. His stipulation that he be paid in cash before playing each show (a practice he instituted after being screwed over by too many promoters) ended up with getting charge with tax evasion. And then there was the sordid scandal of video-taping women who used the bathroom in a restaurant he owned.

The documentary “Hail Hail Rock n Roll” was made of his sixtieth birthday concert and his irascible and irritating behavior became the story over the music. Keith Richards was there to assemble the band and to act as music director. At one point Chuck took a swing at him. That’s right. He tried to punch out the Dark Lord of Rock n’ Roll. Chuck Berry did things his way and often to a fault.

But the art still stands and that’s what we remember. He was rock music’s first guitar hero, bringing the instrument to the forefront. He wasn’t the first to play or write rock n’ roll but he was the first to write a substantial body of songs that defined and celebrated it. His songs were covered/approximated by the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, and countless others. Hell, even one of Elvis’ last hits was a white-boy rendition of “Promised Land”. Four pieces of music were went out into the deep beyond of space on the Voyager. One of them was Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”. And we all would like to think that somewhere, someday, another form of life will decipher what Voyager contains and then wonder, “what the hell was that? Play it again!”

RIP Chuck.

 

 

 

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An Embarrassment of Distractions

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Things are picking up in my expansion of the book from less than 120K first novel to your standard fantasy doorstop so I’m plugging away. And wouldn’t you know it, there are a number of distractions on the small screen: Twins spring training baseball, the North Dakota Class B boys basketball tournament, and of course, round two of the NCAA big dance. So basically I will sit in the living room with my laptop, stereo on, and switch between channels now and then.

Having the stereo on instead of the TV volume up is a must. Voices are a distraction, especially strident sports announcer voices. We get it guys, you’re excited. Sheesh. So the stereo plays disc after disc while I churn out words and occasionally check the score. It seems to work. And that is about all the weekend excitement I am prepared to take.

Have a good one.

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Coke Zero and Cat – A Study in Calm

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Joffrey is being a daddy’s boy today. He get up on my desk quite a bit, often to annoy me just enough so I give in and feed him. But the rest of the time it’s for attention or to just hang out. Right now he’s fighting the afternoon nap and losing the battle.

We had another small snowfall on Sunday, bringing us to just over a foot of new powder in one week. There was a 1 1/2 to 2 foot drift running across the driveway blocking the garage doors so that was a decent cardio workout. And yesterday I went through my treadmill torture so today is a day of rest with maybe a plank or two to stretch out. It’s a bitch trying to get back in shape but you know what’s worse? Being ridiculously out of shape.

Right now I’ve got a spring training game on and Baby Jesus actually just drove in a couple runs. In March baseball, anything is possible. Like snow storms.

 

 

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In the Dark

Yesterday was day two of The Blizzard that Wouldn’t Leave. The weather forecast for Tuesday was that our blistering high winds would abate by nine AM. Instead they got worse.

Tuesday is garbage day in this small town. Keep in mind we had gale force winds Monday coupled with at least nine inches of snow. So the drift at the lower third of my driveway could have been The Wall in the Game of Thrones considering the likelihood of me plowing it out by hand. I checked the town’s Facebook page. No notice about garbage being cancelled. Some neighbors had their enormous black containers out while others didn’t bother. So I decided to bundle up and venture forth, dragging approximately 75 pounds of bulk over about a three foot high drift that was a good ten yards long. In high winds. It about killed me.

I get back inside and it occurred to me to check the cable channel that covers “community announcements”. It said “no garbage pickup today, we’ll try tomorrow.” Oh thanks for the timely fucking update. I was covered in sweat and my ancient heart was thundering from exertion. A couple hours later the high winds had tipped the garbage can over and slammed a cardboard box the size of a large coffin up against our hedge.And then the weather changed. We were back into “blizzard” status. I struggled my way outside and pulled the garbage can off the street and back into the snow drift. I cannot tell you how fun that was.

The power must have browned out at least a half dozen times by supper time. I would guess that the onslaught must have been raising hell with the power lines. Modern electronics don’t do well with power outages. There’s about five clocks in the house that have to be reset, computers to be rebooted, cable boxes thrown out of sync, and my ancient printer squawks incessantly when the juice comes back on. It was a long day.

About ten o’clock we were settled in to watch the Daily Show while the winds howled and shook the house. The power browned out again, staggered, and then died. I knew it wasn’t coming back. Text messages between friends and family revealed that Montana Dakota Utilities figured it would take four hours to restore the juice. We piled an extra quilt on the bed and I read from my iPad.

MDU must have followed the Montgomery Scott estimate because the lights came back on before Colbert was over. I kicked off the extra quilt and eventually drifted off, waking now and then to fight with one of the cats or the damn chihuahua for precious space on the mattress.

This morning I took the garbage back to the curb. The giant cardboard box was now in my neighbor’s driveway. I cleared the snow off the back steps and of course opened up the deck for the dogs, all in a brisk 5 above zero. So again, I’m sweating like an Olympian. Once inside I checked the community channel and it’s totally on the fritz. Who knows if the garbage trucks will show up. I called the city office and left a message about the giant box. I also called my cousin and invited him to come over with his ancient but high-clearance four-wheel-drive pickup to punch through that snow drift. There’s no way the Family Truckster could break that thing and it’ll be at least another day before I can get anyone to plow us out.

Sunday, when it was about fifty above, my wife said she could smell a hint of spring in the air. Oh I certainly hope so.

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Caturday – Not Fit for the Proverbial…

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Today we were besieged by our first March storm. It was a barrage of very high winds and about half of foot of snow. The dogs were less than pleased to walk outside to do their business. I had to clear paths on what had been a snow-free deck in the early afternoon and that has all drifted in again. And the cats? The cats decided it was National Nap Day.

Temperatures this past weekend had been unseasonably warm, almost in the 50s and the damn cats were in and out and in and out and in and out. Damn, it was tiresome. But today the little bastards KNEW without even going to the doors that is was some kind of nasty out. They all did like Luna in the photo above: sleep the day away. I expect tonight will be filled with cabin-fever-wind-sprints but right now everyone had their supper and they’re all crashing again. Life is good if you’re a cat. Life is compromised if you have small dogs and you have to shovel for the little bastards.

I got hit with some minor flu bug yesterday and today I’m sweating buckets any time I do anything physical. And because Carjo has her usual maladies, I’ve done a fair amount of cleaning, picking up, shoveling snow, trying to get our printer up and running, taking care of the livestock, etc. As my stoic Norwegian ancestors would say: uff da.

But I’ll improve. And so will the weather. Until, of course, the next March storm.

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