Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Vacation

My this is nice. I recommend two weeks vacation to everyone. It’s been a busy year and I (like others) face the use-it-or-lose-it situation. Company rules only allow me to carry forward 40 hours into 2011, so it’s now or never. As it is, I’m still going to “lose” a few hours.

The weather is cooperating and I’ve been spending a great deal of time outdoors. Yesterday Shana and I went to the local municipal golf course for a few quick laps on the cross country skis. We were under the impression the trail was “groomed”. Not sure where we got that idea. It’s near the high school and used by the cross-country ski team for practice – so maybe we just assumed. It wasn’t groomed – but that did not matter too much as others had broken a nice trail for us. It’s not a long course – only about 10 minutes per loop – but the weather was great – almost 30 degrees and sunny.

Part of the fun was wearing this old jacket on the course. I found it in the closet, and it screamed 1979, so I tried it on and it fit perfectly. We are unsure of its origins, but it’s most likely a Jake original, one of Shana’s father’s hand-me-downs. Not even sure why it’s in our closet as Jake never gives up old items. I usually give most of my clothing away before it gets too outdated, so I’ve been burned lately when all these 1970s (and now 80s) styles are coming back into vogue. Perhaps the time has come for this jacket – perhaps not.

Goal today – give away stuff. We have one bag for Goodwill and another for the local community center which collects stuff for the Karen refugees. [Old Strib article.] Finally, there will be several bags for Half Price Books. I’m afraid to bring them all in at one time – but what’s the chance that I will go back over several days?

Finally - making potato soup today. I currently have a large ham bone left over from the Christmas ham simmering away to create the broth. Smells great!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

[The past few years I've wondered why I don't just post this online and save all the hassle of mailing it, but then I remember that my aunts and uncles would never find it that way. Besides, it wouldn't be a Christmas "letter" then.]

It was a very busy year – but what’s new? Every year we take on more activities. Somehow we find time to do it all, and it makes our lives more interesting and rewarding.

John (the Dad) started the year with his first ever broken bones. Alas it wasn’t the sort of injury that resulted in a cool cast that all his friends could autograph. He slipped on the ice while walking Duke and fractured two vertebrae and suffered a nasty whiplash. The recovery went well, but it involved many weeks of physical therapy. He still complains of the occasional pain-in-the-neck but we’re not sure if that’s due to the injury or something else.

John continues to spend his days at Thomson Reuters. This year was especially busy with some new duties, and tons of glamorous business travel. The highlight of his business travels was dropping his BlackBerry in a cup of coffee while returning home – one day before the family vacation. The result – no work BlackBerry on the family vacation – excellent timing!

When he’s not dropping BlackBerrys in coffee, John keeps busy with his duties on the Roseville Planning Commission. They re-wrote (updated) the old 1959 zoning code this year – lots of work, and what seemed like a million public hearings.

John and the kids performed in two Rosetown Playhouse productions this year – the summer production of Oliver!, and a crazy version of A Christmas Carol in December. John enjoyed his first speaking role in A Christmas Carol, but it was nothing compared to Maria’s “love scene” as the adolescent Belle (Scrooge’s lost love), and a beautiful musical number. John-John played Random Reveler #1 – a role he excelled in.

Shana continues to make history at the Minnesota Historical Society. When she’s not carting the kids around to after school and evening activities, she is active in Girl Scouts and various volunteer activities at Rosetown Playhouse. Dad and the kids haven’t talked her into coming on-stage yet. She seems content to sell tickets, concessions, and usher. Some day!

Maria turned 13 this year. As always, Maria lives a life immersed in song. In addition to two different church choirs, Maria sings in a school choir and the Giovani choir – part of Project Opera. One of the highlights of the year was Maria’s performance in the Minnesota Opera’s production of La bohème at the Ordway.

John-John (age 10) – stays out of trouble with school, plays, basketball, drumming, and piano. One of the highlights of 2010 was the boys (Dad and John-John) trip to Washington, D.C. for spring break. They enjoyed spending time with Shana’s brother John and his wife Sue (and Otto – of course). The boys also walked (and walked) all over DC checking out the museums and other cultural landmarks. The highlight (according to Dad) was coming within 20 feet of the President as his motorcade left the White House. Not bad for just stumbling upon this while walking around the White House. Too bad the President was looking the other way. We did confirm it was the back of his head.

The family zoo welcomed a new member this year with the addition of a stray cat John found in a local park. That cute little kitty subsequently attacked Shana, requiring a trip to the doctor for Shana, and a visit with the Vet for the stray. Luckily no one had rabies, but Shana had to take monster-sized antibiotics while she waited for all the scratches to heal. That makes three cats – Roscoe the original, Patches who we are keeping “temporarily” for a friend, and Reggie the attack cat – who has adjusted to life in his new home quite nicely.

Duke the Golden Retriever continues to enjoy life with only a few emergency trips to the vet this year – the latest for ingesting too many mushrooms. We also lost one member of the animal family when Chubby [or was it Haley] the hamster passed away.
We didn’t spend as much time at the cabin as we would have liked. The first part of the summer was taken up with rehearsals and performances of Oliver! Later, in August, we flew to Maine for a week on the Atlantic shore. We stayed in a very nice home and took lots of pictures. In fact, all the pictures on the Christmas card were snapped there. After a crazy, crowded day in Acadia National Park, we spent the rest of the week enjoying the smaller, out-of-the-way attractions in all the little towns nearby. It was fun to explore along the beach – though it was a work-out as we climbed and jumped from rock to rock (really huge boulders) that make up the “beach”.

We hope you have had a great year, and wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.

John, Shana, Maria, and John-John

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flash Mob - Project Opera

As I posted on Facebook, I was on carpool duty today, driving Maria, a friend, and the Dude downtown for a Flash Mob performance of Night of Silence/Silent Night at City Center. It was a Project Opera event for the young people in the two choirs, along with alumni and parents.

I think it delighted the shoppers and noon lunch crowd. Maria saw one woman start to weep, and I overheard someone say, "Oh, this is one of those flash mobs like on the internet."

Yes, it's on the internet. Here's the Project Opera report. and I captured it in all it's glory on the Flip - don't know why I stood behind and to the side of the singers the whole time. Video here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Curtain Call

[Photo by Chas Campbell,]

Whew! It’s over. The last performance of A Christmas Carol was Sunday – Saturday’s performance being cancelled due to the blizzard. Of course the kids and I miss it already and are looking forward to the summer production of A Wizard of Oz.

The last few days we've been busy digging out of the blizzard that cancelled Saturday's performance and wreaked all sorts of havoc across Minnesota. The Dude has been home from school the past two days as his school. Yes – it’s true we live in Roseville where the streets have been plowed clean since early Sunday morning, but the Dude attends a private school in St. Paul which follows their schedule. St. Paul schools are closed – so we are home.

Maria attends school in Roseville – and is getting a little jealous/angry about her brother’s situation. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul schools have been closed due to the snow, cold - and the inabilty to plow the streets in such a manner as to allow safe passage to and from school.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What is Vacation?

Never again will I be caught in December with 150 hours of vacation. Company rules only allow me to carry 40 hours over into the New Year. I’m taking it as fast as I can, but I suspect I'll "lose" some before the year runs out. I still need to work and I find that “vacation” just means not being physically in the office, but responding to emails via BlackBerry anyway.

I started this year with 40 hours carried over from 2009, but given my senior status, it seems I get more vacation that I can actually use. Looking back the only real vacation I took was the week in Maine last August and a day or two throughout the year.

I plan to take the last two weeks of December off – but that seems a bit irresponsible to my products so I will probably monitor and respond to email anyway.

Why do they give you vacation anyway when you really never get away?

Christmas Carol - Week One

[Christmas Carol promotional photo with both me (upper right) and the Dude (lower left) reaching out to grab Scrooge. [Photo by Chas Campbell, Visit Rosetown Playhouse on Facebook for more photos.]

We had a great time last weekend at our first three performances of Christmas Carol. The first two shows (Friday and Saturday night) seemed a bit slow and the audience didn't laugh at all the funny parts - in my opinion. By Sunday afternooon we really turned it on and the audience really responded.

I think we all fully recovered from last week which began with 8 (yes eight) hours of rehearsal on Sunday, November 28 and ran straight through the week with rehearsals every night from 6:00 to 9:30, then performances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The kids slept 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday night. Even I "slept in" until 7:15 on Saturday - late for me.

Still three performances remaining - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 10, 11, and 12. Visit Rosetown Playhouse for more information.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Busy Week

At Thanksgiving, friends asked if I was still writing – aka blogging. I said, “No” for all the usual reasons: too busy, nothing to say (or really – can’t think of how to say it), can’t compete with all my Facebooking friends, etc.

Shana and I discussed this the next day and she didn’t want to hear any of my excuses. She said they were a “cop-out”. Shana is good with that tough-love approach. She’s probably the only person who doesn’t cut me any slack.

It’s crunch week for The Christmas Carol gang. We went from 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday (with an hour off for dinner). It was our first “technical” rehearsal, incorporating all the props, sounds, customers, etc. It went fairly well, though we totally botched a dance number. To our credit we kept dancing – though it had nothing to do with the choreographed steps we practiced for weeks. We recovered for the final segment.

Yesterday I had a passing moment of panic – this production will never work, we will never get all these scenes to flow. Why would anyone want to pay money to see this? Etc. This is only my third production, but I’ve encountered this pre-show panic with each one. The other two worked out fine so I’m confident this one will as well.

When discussing theater with my side of the family at Thanksgiving celebration #2, we started discussing where the acting/singing “gene” came from. Most agreed it came from the Gisselquist side. Paul’s oldest son asked if I had done any theater in high school. When I told him, “No”, he said, “Oh, you were like my Dad then.” True – Richfield High School was a big enough place that the jocks and the theater types never ran into each other – not unless they wanted to.

That led to an interesting comment from my mother. She recalled talking me out of a request by one of our pastors to sing the liturgy one Sunday morning. Back in my Lutheran heyday, I often read the lesson. At one point, my Mom recalls a pastor asking if I’d ever sing the liturgy. I vaguely recall this incident. My Mom recalls how she talked me out of it, “Oh, that’s something you don’t want to do.” Probably best she did – or I might have gone to seminary. It’s interesting how her fear of that event led her to convince me it was my fear also. That’s the story of my life, always taking the safe way.

Paraphrasing Robert Frost, my motto ought to be:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one most traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Major and John

Thank goodness the City of Roseville has decided to provide updates on Major's condition, as the story has slipped from the local news scene after this weekend's snow storm and Vikings loss.

Major's Health Update Monday, Nov15--U of M VMC

Major is doing GREAT! We took out his IV catheter, and he is eating well, very alert and happy. He enjoys seeing everyone, especially his partner, John.

Major still has no movement in his hind legs, but today we are going to start working with our rehabilitation technician to get him back on his feet. We will fit him with a “walk-about”, which support his hind end as we walk him around. He is very strong on his front legs, so this will help him to be more mobile. We will also do some work with a stability ball. As soon as his wounds heal, we can start with underwater treadmill therapy and other physical therapy.

Major continues to eat and drink with enthusiasm, and his antibiotics and pain medication are now administered by mouth, no more IV’s! His progress is amazing, GO MAJOR!!

Major is receiving excellent care, love and lots of attention at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Center.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Major Update

The family has been following closely the drama surrounding Major - the Roseville Police dog who is the partner of Officer John Jorgensen (married to my cousin Heather).

In attempt to stop a rash of thefts from vehicles, Maplewood Police had set up a trap of sorts. Roseville's finest, inlcuding John and Major were there as well. According to the StarTribune:

About 5 a.m. near English Street and Hwy. 36, a "bait car" inside the fenced-in lot at Truck Utilities set off an alert through the police broadcast system.

Police quickly arrested two suspects, while Major was unleashed by Officer John Jorgensen and joined in the search of the property for accomplices.

Soon after, officers "heard the dog yip," said Maplewood Deputy Chief Dave Kvam, "not as if it had made an apprehension, but as if it had been hurt."

After several minutes, Major, a seven-year veteran with the Roseville police force, was located and taken to the veterinarian medical center.

The crowbar was recovered at the scene.

Nice video at the link - the Vet said Major had a complete blood and plasma transfusion because he was hemorraging so badly.

Major and John sure keep busy. I posted about their most recent action in July. I first posted a story about them in 2008.

We continue to hope for the best.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cough, Kiss, Lines!

Home from work - sick with some sort of upper respiratory thing: chest congestion, cough, sore throat, kind of clogged up. No energy. But the show must go on.

Last night the kids and I went to the first rehearsal of The Christmas Carol. Though sick, I went because I didn’t want to miss anything. We read through the entire play. I hope the director doesn’t want me to play the part like I read it last night as I don’t think I could replicate the hoarse voice once I get better.

We enjoyed seeing the various people developing their characters for the first time. It was not uncommon to hear and see their voice and/or delivery change with each line they read as they tried out new ideas.

For the first time in my budding acting career, I have lines (plural). In The Music Man I had a line (singular), and in Oliver I had a non-speaking role. Now in The Christmas Carol I actually have lines that require me to flip the pages in the script! I am Father Pilgrim. Many/most of the characters in this production were unknown to Charles Dickens. The basic story line is the same, Scrooge, Marley, three ghosts – but it’s the details that make it fun. It takes place through the ages, from cave-man times to “the future”.

M plays Adolescent Belle (the young love of Scrooge) who appears during the early scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Much to her shock, she has a “love” scene – one that requires her to kiss Adolescent Scrooge in a rather romantic fashion. She is mortified! But after the kiss, she and Scrooge get to sing a duet. That makes up for the kiss – I think.

The Dude plays Random Reveler One – a little party guy who runs around announcing that Christmas is coming. He has one solo line, and another short interaction with Random Reveler Two. He is pretty excited.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Drat the luck of a poorly timed San Diego business trip. Not only am I missing my son’s parent-teacher conference (Now I’m one of those kind of parents!), I’m missing my first ever “call-back” for an acting role.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up the phone last night and it was Margo (Music Director for Rosetown Playhouse’s production of The Christmas Carol) inviting both M and I to call-backs. No call-backs for little kids (Dude) at this time. Sounds like their roles will be assigned later.

This is very exciting news. M is pumped! One problem: call backs are tonight, and I won’t be here. I’ll be in San Diego. I apologized to Margo and said I realized this could take me out of the running, but Margo said she would talk to the Director (her son) and see if they could schedule me for Friday afternoon after I return. She said that she wants to give me a chance to show what I’ve got (in the acting sense, not like Brett Favre).

Keep your fingers crossed!

It looks like busy times ahead with several special meetings of the Planning Commission and my budding acting career with Rosetown. Too bad my paying job gets in the way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm a Believer?

There's been a change in plans in the frantic last minutes leading up to the Rosetown Playouse auditions. While I know I'm going to sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I'm stuck on the poem/monologue I have to recite.

Unable to get past, "Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash," in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I've decided to go with what I know. I plan to recite the lyrics to a pop song. Given my vast knowledge of Beatles tunes, perhaps I'll pull a Peter Sellers and do Hard Days Night. I'm also toying with I'm a Believer by The Monkees (words and music by Neil Diamond, of course). Either way I plan to deliver the lines with feeling and "meaning" - should be fun!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Home Office: Running Dog and Barfing Cat

Business today respects no time. You report to an office for your regular 8 hours of butt-in-chair time, you carry your BlackBerry everywhere you go, responding to emails during your waking hours. You awake to read the emails from your associates in India. And, you agree to present via WebEx at 7:30 am from your kitchen.

It started out well. Shana and M had just left for school. The dog had been fed and walked. The Dude was still asleep, but I could wake him after the call and still get him to school in plenty of time.

The WebEx starts. The cats are hungry. Usually we have the Dude feed them – but he’s still asleep, and Patches is howling. Patches is an old cat, an ex-smoker – 4 packs a day by the sound of her meowing. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. I feed the cats.

Now Duke needs to go out. Out he goes – and he takes off running. Running I say – a rare occurrence these days. Off I go in pursuit, in my stocking feet. He sees me coming, and ducks and cuts with the finesse of an NFL running back. I collar him and drag him into house just in time to start presenting my portion of the show.

Now the dog is pacing and I ask myself – does he really need “to go” or does he just want to run? I start presenting, and my laptop goes into stand-by mode. I’ve lost the connection! Luckily I’ve printed off the slides and I continue on. I’m walking and talking, trying to distract the dog when Patches starts wretching on the couch, and Duke runs over to see if he can help “clean up”. Luckily it’s not much, and I clean it up without missing a beat on the call.

Somehow the call ends; thankfully, Duke has held it. All this drama and its only 8:00 a.m.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bah Humbug!

Sometime yesterday the theater bug bit me again. I had been telling myself for months that there was no way I could participate in the Rosetown production of A Christmas Carol. I simply didn’t have the time. But all that changed yesterday.

Why did it change? It hit me on the walking path yesterday as I walked along, grumbling about my lot in life. I came “this” close to veering off to the dark side, feeling sorry for myself and sliding into what looked to be a rather long-term mope. Instead, I thought – why not do something about it? Why not do something you really enjoy? Well – I enjoy community theater, and auditions are next Monday and Tuesday. It was a no-brainer.

For the audition I need a song (a cappella), recite a poem or Christmas story from memory, and do a dance – which they teach you that night. For the song I’m thinking God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen which I always associate with A Christmas Carol and happens to fall into my very limited vocal range. When I explained this to M, she said in a slightly derogatory tone, “Yeah Dad, the range is like ‘this’.’’ She was holding hands about 4 inches apart from each other. Sorry Miss M, not everyone can hit the E above high-C or whatever she can force her vocal chords to do. So, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen it is.

I’m stumped on the poem/story. Last night I was toying with the idea of reciting the Christmas story from Luke (King James Version) ala Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s a bit cliché – but it seems simple enough. Maybe I could do it with a blanket draped over my shoulder – might help them remember me if a lot of 48 year old guys audition.

For the dance – well I’ll just say a short prayer and hope I don’t trip.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cats and Mouse

The day begins on an interesting note. While walking Duke in the athletic fields behind our house we passed an owl (Great Horned I believe). He/She was sitting on the top of the football goal-post. It was dark (5:45 am) but you could make out the owl’s outline and see its head spin slowly around as it followed us as we walked 20 to 30 feet behind it.

We arrived back home to discover Roscoe and Reggie – the two more adventurous cats – had left a mouse for our inspection/enjoyment. It was quite dead, and Roscoe posed over it proudly while Reggie paced around behind him. Roscoe let me pick it up and dispose of it without incident. On other occasions, when they have a mouse we (the Dude and I) end up chasing the cats around the house, forcing them to drop it so we can take the mouse outside and release it. Of course, that’s when the mouse is still alive and who wants to give up a live (or partially alive) mouse? They are so much fun. Next time, if I’m home alone that is, I will just cat nature run its course. Once the mouse is good and dead, the cats will tire of it and probably even bring it to me.

Work continues to be busy, and I’m especially busy making up for time lost traveling. I missed two days last week for travel, and two days generate a ton of email. It feels like I’m always playing catch-up. After my regular “stand-up” meeting and a rather unproductive email exchange, I needed a mid-morning mental health break so I escaped to the walking path.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


[The best macchiato - at the Nook - perfect drink at the time.*]

The Westin Philadelphia – today’s office and home away from home

I’ve got to hand it to myself. I’m getting better at business travel. I can pack in under 15 minutes, and I no longer stress out about leaving the kids and Shana home to fend for themselves. Not that I ever needed to worry – but that’s just me – I worry about things.
This marks my 6th trip since July, and I’ve got one more scheduled for this month.

Back when I traveled 2 or 3 times a year it was fun – a perk of the job. Travel was a chance to see a new city, stay at a fancy hotel, and eat at nice restaurants. I still see new cities, stay at fancy hotels, and eat at nice restaurants – but at some point this business travel thing kind of “jumped the shark”.

The Dude was a bit upset when I packed last night. As he said, it’s not that he doesn’t like spending time with Mom, but I’m traveling “all the time” in his eyes. On the other hand, Maria thinks I’m a “rock star” with all this travel – she thinks it’s quite glamorous.

The only direct way to get here with enough time to make the afternoon appointment was to take the 7:15 flight out – arrives 10:50. That left plenty of time to wander around. After wandering I had lunch at El Fuego – very nice. After lunch I actually napped a bit.

Rather than feeling refreshed when I awoke, I thought my throat felt funny. I haven’t been sick in so long (rats I just jinxed it), but that’s only because I haven’t sat still long enough for the germs to catch up.

I had one meeting late this afternoon, then a nice dinner with a colleague. Now I’m just sitting in the hotel, catching up on email and watching the Twins lose.

Four more meetings with customers tomorrow. It should wrap up around 3 – plenty of time to make the flight home!

*Back story on that macchiato: I had time to kill before my 4:00 pm meeting and had not had any coffee since morning, so I stopped at a Starbucks. The baristas were very chatty and incredibly friendly. That's pleasant I thought - until they screwed up my order - gave me DECAF for pete's sake! I didn't notice it until about 5 minutes into the drink when I turned the cup to see the box next to Decaf was checked. It was too crowded, and I wasn't in the mood to object - so I left in search of another coffee shop. A half block away I discovered the Nook - it was quiet and peaceful. It also had a friendly barista - but not so chatty that he gave me decaf. In fact he fixed the most incredible macchiato I'd had in quite some time.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Go Team!

Don’t know why I agreed to do this, but like most things I hesitate to do, it turned out fun. Friday night I attended homecoming at Roseville Area High School (pronounced RAHS to the local). Both Maria and I had a moment of panic when we arrived. (She confessed to this later – Sunday morning actually.) This picture sums it up. I stuck my BlackBerry up and snapped the crowd, and got Maria’s face in the bottom half.

The reason I attended – the rule that middle school kids cannot go unless accompanied by an adult. No limit on the number of kids that can be attached to a grown up, so the number of middle schoolers outnumbered their “chaperones” by about 20 to 1 – or so it felt.

I did have a good time – sitting by myself with the other parent/chaperones. RAHS beat Hastings

Monday, September 27, 2010

Drop It!

Duke and I were out for a walk this morning. When I wasn’t scouring the ground in front of us (like here when I was in a clean parking lot), I tried to look-up and observe the fall colors. (Picture snapped this morning while walking Duke).

The fun never ends with Duke. He had another mushroom incident Sunday. It was not nearly severe as the prior weekend – no Saturday night trip to the vet.

I’ve stopped feeling guilty about these his food-induced sickness because we watch him like a hawk. We accompany him any time he is out of doors. We seldom trust him to the kids anymore – though the Dude is pretty good with the “Drop It!” command. Anytime we let him out to do his thing, Shana or I follow close behind Duke barking out (no pun intended) commands to “DROP IT!” whenever he picks up something. He responds well to the “drop it” command. In fact, he only responds when I call his name about 25% of the time (more for Shana). The neighbors must think we are mean, cruel – or hopefully – only odd – walking along behind an old dog yelling “drop it” every 10 seconds.

At times, I wonder about the quality of his life. Anytime he is walking off road, he has his nose to the ground looking for dog poop, goose poop, mushrooms, wood chips, or whatever he “needs”. I implore him, “Duke look up, sniff the air, and see the sunshine!” But, in the end, he’s just a dog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Windy Walk, and Duke Update

In today’s scene from the walking path the artistic blur on the trees and grasses is provided courtesy of the wind. I’ve been a regular walking maniac – making it out onto the path the past two Fridays! It’s been months since I could be counted on to walk daily. Oh well, I make the best of it.

I have to walk on my own, as Duke has kind of given up on regular walking. Some days he goes “far” – maybe a mile or so, but other days he walks about a block and just digs in his heels. That’s his way of saying, “Time to go home buddy.”

I shouldn’t complain about Duke’s fading interest in walking. Rather I should be happy and/or amazed he is still alive. Last Saturday he got into something, probably the “wrong” kind of mushroom, and got very ill. He looked a wreck and we decided we should take him to the vet. Dr. Stefan poked and prodded, drew blood (which confirmed he was dehydrated), took x-rays, and provided some IV fluids. In the end, no blockage or other nasty trouble was found.

The good news was that the rocks were gone. What rocks you ask? Well – I guess I haven’t been blogging much have I.

A few weeks (or was it months) ago, during another round of Duke drama when he ingested a great deal of stuff, x-rays showed that he had some sort of pebbles or small rocks in his stomach. They weren’t coming out via the usual channels, but didn’t appear to be causing any trouble. Well – now they are gone. Where did they go? They probably dissolved. I don’t know about the cats, but Duke certainly has nine lives.

Other highlights?

We are back in full school mode, complete with all the extracurricular activities one would expect. New this year, Minnesota Boychoir for the Dude. Last night was the first rehearsal.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back At It

It was back to school this week - and even though it was a very busy summer work-wise, it feels like "back to work" week as well. Let's try to add to that list of "back-to" activities with "back to blogging".

Here's a picture I snapped this morning while walking Duke. It's the gate to the community garden at the Falcon Heights Community Park.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Random Thoughts

Dumping your BlackBerry in coffee is not covered under the warranty, so I’ve ordered a new one. Pity – as I am enjoying life without it – but the job is such that I’m expected to be Mr. Twitchy, constantly checking the darn thing for the latest communication from World Headquarters.

Time away allows one to assess things. I don’t think I ever realized how busy I was/am until I went away (without my BlackBerry). Looking back, I don’t even recall large chunks of June and July. Just yesterday it dawned on me that I don’t recall much of anything about Oliver! even though it consumed my life for 8 weeks.

I had my mid-year review with boss yesterday. Things are going well. Apparently the hell I’m experiencing is showing a new side to me – one that meets with management’s approval. I’m becoming more of a “Driver”- something I am encouraged to continue to develop. I’m not sure what I actually did that demonstrated these driver skills. In general, I feel harried, confused, and pissed-off most of the time – perhaps those are the skills and traits of a successful driver?

Email Heck: Of course my regular email troubles are accentuated by the fact that I took a true (non-working) vacation. Now I’m juggling reading (and responding to) old email – some 2 weeks old – against the responding to new ones that arrive almost non-stop. I’m favoring the more current ones – as many of the senders of the old ones probably found their answer elsewhere when they saw my out-of-office message. I hope.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Quick checking from Maine where I am extremely offline. On my return from Las Vegas --the second trip in two weeks-- I dropped my BlackBerry into my coffee. It is out of commission until I return to office next week. First few days I kept reaching for it -- very twitchy was I. Now I am accustomed to the life offline and except for this brief interlude, intend to remain offline for the duration of vacation.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Working from a Remote Location

Here's the view from the office window this morning. I'm in Las Vegas on business - sales meeting. I return next week as well! I'm not needed down at the conference until 1:45 and since their is no wi-fi in the conference area I have retreated to the comfort of my room overlooking the pool, spa, and vineyard! - to take advantage of the free internet.

I did circle around during morning break - see and be seen - hundreds of Type-A's slapping backs, little hugs, air-kisses - whew! I've got to put on my game face for this afternoon.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

No Further!

The Dude and I are at the cabin this weekend. Shana and M, and 7 other Girl Scouts (and one additional adult) are up at the North Shore. I need to clear my mind so I was looking forward to the long walks I "knew" Duke and I would take.

For some reason, Duke will not take a long walk. We can putter around the cabin, but any attempt to go more than the equivalent of a city block are met with resistance, as in the photo above.

So it's back to the cabin where Duke is now pacing. He will pace until it's time to nap the day away before waking up in the late afternoon for the pre and post-dinner pacing. Ah - the quality of life that dog enjoys.

Here's another photo that I snapped yesterday morning as the fog was lifting. Today we have clouds and the threat of rain.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Higher and Higher

641 unopened emails!

The email - oh, the email. The old records just keep falling. A month or two ago I complained about my 200 or so unanswered emails. Hah - I knew I could take this to new heights.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Time

[Yeah - back on the walking path again.]

Amazing what life is like after Oliver! Both the kids and I are in withdrawal, uncertain of what to do with our free time. One thing I’ve been doing: catching up on sleep – sometimes getting as much 7 or 8 hours a night! What do you know; tired and crabby is not my normal state! Every day it gets easier to enjoy the new found freedom.

Twice this week the kids and I (and a friend) visited the local community center for open swim hour. That was fun – felt good to exercise my shoulder muscles – I’ve been having a bit of a re-lapse of back pain – related somehow to last winter’s fractured vertebrae – and jumping off the stage on the opening night of Oliver! As we like to say around the family, “You’re not 15 anymore!”

But now work looms large in my life. Without the all consuming extracurricular activity to keep me pre-occupied, I have to buckle-down and focus on work. I’m still crazy busy. The new person I hired has been whisked away to work on another big project. Good for her (and us in general) but that leaves me where I was a few weeks ago – working a large product launch by myself.

Found time yesterday to hit the walking path. It goes without saying but I need to do that more often. Snapped the two photos – the top one with some sort of purple flower (I should know what it is) and this monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

John and Major

I’ve posted about Officer John Jorgenson and his K9 partner, Major before. John is married to my cousin Heather. It’s been interesting few years for John. After being shot in the line of duty last year, he and Major recently had an amazing encounter with a suspect.

It’s a great story – fascinating writing for a little weekly. Here is a highlight:

Watery struggle

As Jorgenson peered from the brushy bank, he could see Major swim northwest along a peninsula stretching into the lake. The dog then clambered out and raced along the shoreline, trying to find Eberhardt. Jorgenson reported he again shouted a warning but didn't receive a response.

Major, the report notes, then hit the water again and swam north along the shoreline. He was out of Jorgenson's view when the officer heard him make contact with Eberhardt. Jorgenson then moved along the shoreline and saw Major had a grip on Eberhardt's arm. Still, Eberhardt moved out into deeper water and continued to ignore Jorgenson's commands to come to shore.

At this point, Eberhardt took hold of Major's collar and held his head and body underwater in what the report said was an "obvious attempt to drown him." The report adds both Major and Eberhardt went under water for more than five seconds. Jorgenson then entered the water and pointed his weapon at Eberhardt.

The report says after he pulled his weapon, Jorgenson ordered Eberhardt to stop fighting with the dog; this order was also ignored.

The report noted Eberhardt continued swearing at Major and Jorgenson feared "the suspect was going to kill my K9 partner."

Read the whole story – it turns out OK in the end.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oliver! - The Proof

Since I haven't blogged in ages, I thought I'd better submit photographic evidence of my participation in Oliver! since I provided no updates during the rehearsals or performances.

Unlike last year where I blogged a great deal about Music Man complete with pictures and even some video, this year I rely on others for photos. These were all taken by Carl Berger, friend of the family and great photographer.

The Dude as Orphan during the opening number, Food.

M (on left)as Pick Pocket.

Yours truly as "buyer" in the Who Will Buy? scene. Yes - they used real roses.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


No, I’m not dead – just dead tired. The final performance Oliver! was last night though it was cut short by storms. The tornado sirens went off just as intermission was ending and we called the off after Scene 2, Act 1, the Oom Paa scene.

Some of the crowd left – running quickly to their cars – the others joined the cast in the basement of the Como Park pavilion. At first the basement scene was chaos with lots of crowding and folks running around trying to make sure all their loved ones were accounted for. After a while the kids decided to run through the songs that the audience was missing – and then eventually ran all the songs, ending with Don’t Stop Believing (definitely not an Oliver! song – but a crowd pleaser nonetheless.) Someone captured a bit of the action.

Check out the Rosetown Playhouse Facebook page for more pictures of the show.

Now it’s back to the grind and 639 unopened emails. I’ve been putting in full days, but always running out quick at the end to make rehearsals. I will miss the diversion of Oliver! – the singing and dancing. Nine hour work days, plus constant BlackBerry action, and an hour or so online after rehearsal is not enough to get it all done. I fear the future will belong to the twitchy – those with incredibly short attention spans who do not suffer anxiety, depression, and what-not from the stresses and strains of the modern workforce. For better or worse, I am not twitchy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cabin Day

The Dude and I decided to take a quick trip to the cabin this weekend - just the guys. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to go - but when Shana offered to keep Duke at home - well, the thought of two nights of uninterrupted sleep sealed the deal.

We left town in a torrential rain - with tornadoes to the south of the Twin Cities, and flash flooding all around. We got to the cabin in one piece - but not until 10:30 p.m.

Saturday morning dawned damp and cool. Both the Dude and I slept in - 8:15 !! Grandma-ma had already left the cabin for the farm where they were holding the big two-day sale. After putzing around the cabin for a few hours - we ventured up to the farm. We shopped around - but resisted the temptation to purchase any treasures - but the nutcracker - well - almost.

Then it was off to Vergas for lunch - mmmm homemade apple pie - and shopping.

Later in the afternoon, we walked up to the farm to help with post-sale clean-up. After putting the unsold treasures away, the Dude and cousin Bella walked back to the cabin. (I hitched a ride with Grandma-ma). We finished the evening with some swimming and an interesting dinner - a combination of smoked salmon and hot dogs - very delicious.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Is That Really How We Roll?

Not sure I want to roll with this cowboy - but that's the theme for an upcoming business meeting I will attend. It's a 4 day event, but I've been able to limit my participation in the land of the neon cowboy to 24 hours.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Since Last We Met

Things I’ve done since last post:

1. Finally left my desk for lunch. See picture above.

2. Began Oliver! rehearsals

3. Marched in my first ever parade

4. Arrived very late to a work-sponsored “team” outing – Twins game at Target Field (my first time ever there) – we left minutes after I sat down. It was too hot in the sun (I hope we don't miss the Dome already?).

5. Hired someone to help me dig out from under my ridiculous workload

6. Made peace with the fact that this new (OK I started in January) role means lots of email – most of it I should read but don’t. As of this moment, 1178 items in “In Box”, 391 unopened. [Secret: if you call me on the telephone – and I’m not in a meeting – I will answer your question in about 30 seconds. Even if I’m in a meeting I usually call you back when I return. But if you insist on emails, go ahead, you will be #392.]

Friday, June 04, 2010

Just Ask Me

Everything you wanted to know about Pocahontas but were afraid to ask. Here is the Dude posing in front of his big 4th grade research project, comparing and contrasting the images of Pocahontas as potrayed in popular culture (aka Disney) with what we know about the real Pocahontas . Not sure what triggered his interest in this - but he can get pretty fired up with the way Uncle Walt has the story all wrong.

Note the mix of old-school and new technologies - the obligatory poster board timeline and his laptop with PowerPoint.

Showed the pic to a co-worker with a 2 year old. Her response, "Wow, only in 4th grade and he knows PowerPoint." Obviously a new mother. The Dude has been working in PowerPoint for years.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Room With A View - About Time

[Target Field from 46 stories.]

This morning at 9:00 AM I found myself in a beautiful conference room at a local law firm. This certainly beats my usual 9:00 a.m. "Stand-Up" held in the basement of our building. To make things extra sweet - I was sitting down.

What do you bet that when it's 2 out in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, and a few men on base - that most of the attorneys find some reason to wander by the conference room. I bet some even bring a pair of binoculars.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taller Still

We pick on Shana a lot, teasing her on the fact that M is taller than her. But - Dad had better watch out as M is gaining on him as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

M Has a Leg Up on Mom

Something Old, Something New

Surprised to receive this old picture of M and the Dude from Aunty Amy today. She snapped it at the Mall of America YEARS ago. When was the last time they sat that close together!

Here's a new photo of the little garden by the end of the driveway - with Duke making an appearance on the right. I crouched down for a "cool" angle - but it just looks like the garden is growing up to swallow the house. Very poor perspective - there is still plenty of lawn to mow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oliver - Update

There was a great deal of excitement in the Hobbled Household this weekend as the kids and I learned that we have parts in Oliver .

I'll be in the chorus and will be a vendor, doing what vendors do best, “selling wares in the street scenes” according to the email instructions I received Sunday.

M will also be a chorus member. In addition she will play a pick-pocket, working for Fagin. The Dude is upset – as he wanted to be a pick-pocket so bad. Instead he will be a chorus member and an orphan appearing in the opening songs with Oliver. Being in the opening scene sounds cool to me but I think he just really likes the pick-pocket song, “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” – which is what we danced to during try-outs last week. (It was a cool dance – but given my Shipoopi experience in Music Man, I’m think Vendor is more my speed.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


On our post-dinner walk this evening, Duke I encountered this note on the ground. It simply said "for focus". The back side was blank. I took it as a sign.

An example of my lack of focus, twice today while toggling between applications on my PC, I forgot why I had toggled(from Word to Outlook, or IE to Outlook). I sat there dazed and confused. Once I just gave up trying to remember, and found something else to work on.

Another fun pic - though I don't know why I didn't snap a photo of the entire bike - but license and bumper sticker (or fender sticker) were so cool I just had to take a shot. The bike was quite old - as the 1964 Minneapolis Bike license would attest. Dig that Ready Kilowatt sticker. Ready was the mascot for a number of power companies. Locals recall him as the mascot for NSP (Northern States Power) - now Excel Energy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I've become that sort of person

. . . the kind of person who brags about all the un-open emails he has.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I left work with over 200 unopened emails in my In-Box. Despite being at the office from about 7:50 am to 5:15 p.m. the problem had actually gotten worse. I started the day at around 150 - and it just kept growing despite my best efforts to keep up.

The problem is staffing - the person who reported to me until last week has left the company - so I'm kind of flying solo. I'm in meetings almost all day acquiring new tasks, while emails keep flowing in assigning me new chores as well.

Last week I thought I'd lose my mind but somewhere along the way I've crossed over to "the other side". That's the side where you just gotta laugh - the alternative is crying - at the unreasonable demands placed upon your time.

Today I actually sat down at the 9:00 am "Stand-up" meeting. Everyone kept asking me questinos and assigning me stuff - stuff I had to write down. As I have never perfected what I call the "Reporter's Stance" (writing on a notepad while standing up), I just gave up and sat down. There had to be 14 people in the room - all standing but me. It felt almost like an act of civil disobedience on my part.

It will get better. The bosses have freed up a colleague to assist me - and that feels good. This afternoon, I learned they had approved filling the position that reports to me so that job will be "posted" internally in the next day or so.

With all the extra time I have, I should be able to interview and hire in no time.

Oliver - Here We Come

Well I did it - tried out for the Rosetown Playhouse's production of Oliver I was hemming and hawing these past few weeks over whether to do it or not. Last year's production of the Music Man - my very first experience on stage - was great! But this year things are different.

Work is crazy busy. I already knew I'd have to miss one performance for business travel (though as a townsperson sort of role, you can conceivably miss a show), and I just wasn't looking forward to it.

But - It felt like the right thing to do. So I left work around 5:15 despite 214 emails in my In-Box, and met Shana and the kids over at the Middle School. When I saw the old gang - director, choreographer, etc - it all came back. I knew it was the right thing to do. Perhaps it will provide some balance in my life?

Now we wait to hear whether we are in or not.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Moms and Kids

Happy Mothers Day. Here's a photo from this afternoon with the Moms and kids after M's church choir spring concert.

Shana can no longer be in denial about who's tallest.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Storm Clouds Ahead?

Actually they were receding - perhaps a good omen?

Duke and I got a little wet on our post-dinner walk, but had dried off by the time we got home expecting to yell at kids to, "Do your X#$% homework!"

Surprise - they were still working hard on their assignments, the Dude even attempting to craft a poem out of his spelling words - not an easy task:


I'm too tired to try - but go ahead - I dare you!


I think I need to take up smoking - anything to force me out of my cube several times a day to go outside and take deep breaths.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't Overstay Your Welcome

Follow the rules of "Meetings 101" and you will never have a bad meeting - and you will enjoy 5 minutes to pass to your next meeting.

Soon they will install bells to let us know when class is out. Maybe I can be a hall monitor?

Know Where You Are At All Times

Here's a helpful sign posted in one of our meeting rooms. The room is outfitted with a fancy teleconference system. The sign is designed to let others viewing this room know what location they are viewing.

It's also just a good way to get your bearings after a crazy week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Escape is Impossible

[Picture from walking path at work snapped this afternoon.]

It looks like all I would have had to do is round the corner and just keep going. But alas, my sense of responsibility made me return to face the afternoon.

It was tempting today – escape that is – with the beautiful weather and all the crap awaiting me back at my desk. Actually I took the crap with me as I always do – on my BlackBerry. Somehow work seems a little less onerous when you are working from your BlackBerry while soaking up the April sun.

I hesitate to go into detail about work, but let me just say that things are getting interesting around the office. With weeks to go before a big product release, I have the opportunity to hire new staff. That's the positive spin. While my co-worker’s departure was unexpected, I trust it will be a good move for her. But with her goes a wealth of product knowledge. I’ve been leaning on her for all the details since I started my new role in January. Now it’s sink-or-swim for me. Luckily my parents made me take swimming lessons as a youth. It was always the coldest week in August – but that’s another story.


And now for something completely different - attack cat update.

Shana has recovered nicely, though her forearms and wrists still show the scars of a cat fight. 10 days have come and gone, and no rabies. The cat is now free to roam the garage again. Shana took the little guy - and he is a little guy - to the vet yesterday for the full exam, tests, shots, etc.

Turns out he is an "intact" (though not for long) male. He is young - but not a kitten. The vet estimated him at a year or two. Very healthy - according to the tests. Now comes the fun part of introducing him to our two cats, Roscoe and Patches. [Why don't we just take him to the Humane Society? Hmm - good question, I'll be sure to ask.]

Yesterday we brought in a blanket the cat had been sleeping on and left it in the family room so the other animals could get acquainted with his smell. Today we brought the cat in to the family room - but kept him in the little kennel-carrier. I guess tomorrow it's a free-for-all - bring him into house without the kennel. The vet suggested we get some spray bottles with water and stand back. The spray bottles are to help break up any fights because you don't want to try that with your hands.

Oh - his name: It was Oscar since we found him on top of a garbage can, like Oscar the Grouch. Now the kids and Shana think that Oscar and Roscoe sound too much alike, so they are calling the little guy Reggie. I prefer Oscar - but then I've been pretty grouchy lately.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This outlet just cries out for help. Interesting stuff you notice when you arrive 5 minutes early for meeting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Birthdays, Oliver, and that Cat

I apologize for the sorry state of blogging lately. There’s a pattern to my blogging – I blog mainly during the good times, the happy times. Unlike other bloggers who pour out their hearts – or vitriol – I tend to take the Minnesota/Scandinavian approach and keep my troubles to myself.

That might not be the best approach I realize. It would relieve a lot of stress and perhaps hasten the return of the happy blogger, if I let loose from time to time. It might also generate some funny stories about Corporate America – as that tends to be the source of most of my woe.

So, I’m still here. This blog limps along.

Today things finally slowed down enough that I arrived at a meeting on time – actually early. Don’t recall the last time I sat alone in a room for 3 minutes.


Yesterday was the Dude’s 10th birthday. We had a small celebration with Boppa (Jake). Grandmama as at home feeling under the weather. Keeping with my rather poor mood I neglected to snap any photos for the blog. I’ll be sure to take pics at his upcoming party with his friends – May 1.

Tomorrow is Shana's birthday - the celebrations never stop!


Upcoming stuff – the kids are quite keen on trying out for the Rosetown Playhouse’s summer production of Oliver. They would like me to audition as well. I get nervous just reading about the audition:

• Come prepared to sing one song of your choice, a cappella
(preferably not a song from Oliver or a pop song)

• Perform a reading from the script, alone or with a partner
(reading provided at your audition)

• Perform a short dance routine (taught to you at your audition)

It would be like last summer with the three of us in the show. That was lots of fun, but very time consuming. This year my work schedule may cut into some rehearsals and I would have a major trade show for 3 to 4 days wedged between the two performance weekends. In the end, I suppose I’ll do it. After watching the Christmas show, I really missed not doing it.


The stray cat continues his quarantine - only a few more days to go and absolutely no sign of rabies - just boredom. Shana is back from her conference and is healing nicely - though her forearms and wrists still look kind of creepy.

That is all - for now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Stop Thief- oh and you kids over there - duck!"

Oh - in addition to cat trouble, M had an eventful day at school.

According to the StarTribune:

A Roseville school went into lockdown mode Wednesday morning when the owner of a liquor store across the street shot at a pair of robbers as they fled with stolen cash.
. . .

The men fled with what Vang [the store owner] said was a significant amount of cash, but Vang followed them outside and fired several rounds from a handgun as they drove away in an Oldsmobile Cutlass.

OK - taking matters into his own hands - nothing like a little self-help - but to fire at the fleeing car, he also fired in the direction of the school. Luckily for bystanders, he actually nailed the car a number of times.

Shana leaves tomorrow for a conference in Denver. Let's hope the excitement is over!

A Sucker No More

Shortly after posting my ode to a stray cat, M called on my BlackBerry. No one ever calls my BlackBerry during the day, so it's usually a wrong number - or bad news.

M reported that while she and Shana were attempting to load the little kitty into the kennel/cat-carrier, the little fiend (the cat - not M) attacked Shana. Shana was bit several times on her hands, wrists, and forearms.

The vet's appointment was off - though a trip to the Doctor for Shana was on. I came home to help with the logistics and post school event pick-ups and drop offs that Shana couldn't handle. (Thanks to H and Jake for driving M around to choir events!)

On our way to the human doctor, we were able to run the little devil past the vet's. Though we had missed our scheduled appointment they did scan it - no microchip. That means no easily identifiable owner - and no record of shots.

On to the doctor where we spent a considerable amount of time discussing RABIES. The doctor put Shana on an anti-biotic and checked to find out her tetanus shots were up-to-date.

As for the cat - after consulting with doctor and vet (again), we agreed to quarantine the cat for 10 days. If the cat shows symptoms of rabies, then we treat Shana - if not, all's well.

Cat is now quarantined in our garage in a large dog kennel - one of Duke's. There he will stay with food, blankets, and litter box for 10 days. When I went to feed him tonight, he put up quite a fit - meowing and hissing. I put on some leather garden gloves and slipped the food in. Now that I'm on the lookout for rabies, I'm imagining the worse in his behavior - hopefully he's just freaked out about the events of this afternoon.

Next time I see a stray kitten, I will just walk on by.

Sucker for a Cute (and Lost) Kitten

First it was Roscoe, the kitten (now cat) the kids fell in love with and had to take home from the cabin. Then it was Patches the very large (can cats be obese?) cat we took in to help a friend whose aunt had to get rid of the cat before moving into a nursing home. Now it’s the mystery cat – we call he/her Oscar – but that will all be determined this afternoon at the vet.

I discovered the latest feline addition to the household on Sunday. Walking through the park with Duke, I saw what I thought was a crow sitting atop a garbage can. I did a double-take because it made some very un-crow like movements. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a very bedraggled kitten (an older kitten – but not full grown). He/she looked awful – very thin and dirty/wet. I held out my hand and the kitten kind of nuzzled me. I was able to pick her up and put her on the ground without a fight. She/he even touched noses with Duke as he inspected the smelly little mess.

Long story short – the humane society seemed out of the question as the kitten looked very unadoptable – and we feared the worse. So –he/she has been living in our garage since Sunday. The vet recommended separation from the other cats until we can check out her/his health. We take the cat to the vet this afternoon where we will be scanning it for a microchip – which would make things very easy.

Oh yeah – we gave it a bath. She was pretty stinky so that had to be done. Thinking ahead, I wore rubber gloves during the bathing. The gloves came out of the bath slightly shredded – but I only received two big scratches on my arms so they provided some protection.

It eats like a horse! We only feed twice a day, and this one immediately cleans out the bowl where we combine what seems like copious rations of both wet and dry food.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Washington D.C.

[A walk in the woods near John and Sue's before the sight-seeing begins.]

The Dude and I returned last night from our whirlwind tour of the nation’s capital. We had a great time, and were lucky enough to stay with my brother-in-law (John) and his wife (Sue) who along with Otto were gracious hosts, ferrying us to the subway stop and other locations around town.

I’ve been to DC about 4 times – including living there for a semester in college while I was a congressional intern. It’s always a blast – but there is just too much to do.

Our sightseeing adventures began Sunday when we all drove down to Mt. Vernon. I was excited as it was on the list of DC area sites that I’d never visited. Even the Dude was excited, as every 9 year old knows George Washington, – unlike say Woodrow Wilson. (On Monday, Sue drove us around Georgetown, Embassy Row, and at one point, past Woodrow Wilson’s house – big yawn and “who?” from the Dude.)

Unlike many old historical sites, which usually seem smaller in real life, Mt. Vernon was huge. It was quite an expanse – even though the historical site is significantly smaller than its original 8000 acres.

Monday we were on our own – after Sue drove us to the Metro stop. The Dude was very excited about taking the subway but quickly learned that a slight predisposition to motion sickness, together with a little claustrophobia can make subway rides less than fun – especially during rush hour!

Despite Monday’s drizzle and cold, we hit three museums – which is one too many we learned. We enjoyed the International Spy Museum (I had never been there before.) The Air & Space Museum is always fun if not crowded. The moon rock was something of a letdown – being rather small and smooth. The Dude expected big, gray, and rough.

After those two museums, we soldiered on to the Museum of American History where we encountered one velvet-rope-line too many. No way were we going to wait an hour to see the ruby-red slippers! They had a great exhibit on Lincoln, but after that we ready to call it a day.

Wednesday dawned sunny and windy and shortly after arriving in town got a real treat – a Presidential sighting. As we strolled around the east side of the White House we observed a helicopter circling overhead, and then police stepped out to block the street and sidewalks. The Dude was confused, but it didn’t take long to figure out what was going on – and we had a front row seat.

What could have been my best picture is kind of a dud. Don’t know why I didn’t wait about 5 seconds until the Presidential limo was directly in front of me – like where the DC police car is in the picture. The Dude blew the picture too, but all-in-all, it was an exciting event.

After that we walked around the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Memorial, we met a school friend of the Dude’s for lunch. We knew they were going to be in DC so we arranged a little get-together. I think the Dude was tiring of hanging with 40 year olds.

After lunch we considered taking another run at Dorothy’s ruby red slippers but decided to go to the Zoo instead – more subway and more walking.

Not much to say about the Zoo. Zoos don’t really impress me – but we did get some nice Panda views. My limited experience with Pandas is that they are rather inactive creatures but these guys were moving around when we were there, so the Dude got some nice pictures.

After the Zoo, we trudged back to the subway and downtown for another stroll around the White House. Alas, we didn’t get lucky that time, but did purchase a nice Obama t-shirt for the Dude and then it was off to John and Sue’s for dinner.

Wednesday – the last day – was hard. The Dude was exhausted and vowed to not set foot in one more museum. But we had time to kill before our flight, so off we went to tour northwest DC, Embassy Row, the VP’s house and a few other “must see” sites before arriving at the airport.

[The Dude flashes a V for victory, alongside Winston Churchill in front of the British Embassy.]

All-in-all it was an excellent adventure for the guys. Many thanks to our hosts John, Sue, and Otto!