The Great Big Profound End of the Year Post

Seems like only yesterday I was saying goodbye to 2009, and ridiculing the media for their navel gazing paeans to the Decade of the Oughts. However, just like them, I am returning to the “year in review meme” again this year for lack of imagination.

So let me start by saying that 2010 will forever be notable because it was first year since 1999 that didn’t have 2 zeros right next to each other. You cannot overestimate the significance of this in numerology! Or maybe you can, I have no idea really. Numerology is one of the few subjects I haven’t bothered to look up on Wikipedia.

So now we look forward to 2011, which is notable for being the year before 2012, which as we all know, is when the Mayan’s will all have to go out and buy new calendars. Lucky Mayan’s, we have to buy new ones every year. Although having a 5,000 year calendar would be a pain. Our kitchen wall isn’t big enough to hold it. 1 year calendars seem much more practical.

OK, this still isn’t working. Let’s start over.

2010! The end of another 10 year chunk of time! Sure, time is an arbitrary measurement. Look at your life by the minute, hours, or day, and it seems like constant change. But pull back to view it in terms of 10 year increments and themes emerge. It’s like Google Earth that way.

1970’s – CHILDHOOD
1980’s – COMING OF AGE
1990’s – FINDING MY PLACE IN THE WORLD
2000’s – PARENTHOOD
2010’s – ??????????

What grand theme will dominate the next 10 years of my life? “KIDS GROWING UP”, “GETTING OLD AND FAT” or maybe “WINNING THE LOTTERY”. I’m hoping for the latter.

But why stop there, what about the 2020’s? “EMPTY NEST” perhaps?
2030? GRANDPARENTHOOD?
2040? SENIOR CITIZENSHIP?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Right now I will be content to make it to 2012 because I’d hate to miss Armageddon. I mean dying the year before the world ends would be like leaving the Baseball game with the home team losing by 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and hearing the crowd roar for a walk off grand slam as you unlock your car. DOH!

Of course, it might also be like standing at the counter in McDonalds as three buses of retirees pull up outside and come toddling in the door for lunch. WOOT, just in time!!!! You can be relaxing in paradise, while the millions of enraptured stand in line for the grand daddy of all Disney World rides. Can you imagine how deflating it would be to be standing 4 billionth in line to get through the pearly gates?

“Your Estimated Wait Time from This Spot – 200 Years”

Happy New Year everyone, may you have a Blessed and Peaceful 2011.

Why I Love Slack Time

I am in a black mood this morning. The weather here has taken a turn for the worse, and after a month and a half of cold temps and above average snowfall, we are now getting 40 degrees and pissy rain. I hate rain in the winter. There is nothing in this world that I hate more than rain in the winter. It ruins the snow, and spoils the ice rink, leaving you with absolutely no outlet for your pent up energy and frustration.

Part of the reason I love Minnesota is that when it gets cold it stays cold, and the sun still shines. That’s why I could never move back to WNY, or Western PA, or Ohio, or any of those places where the temperature fluctuates back and forth above the freezing mark. I spent 20 years of my life trudging through sludge, under dark gray permaclouds, fighting off sinus infections. I don’t ever want to do that again. Give me – 10F and sunshine, and I am a happy, happy man. I’d move even further north if I could.

When the weather forecast for this week was still waffling between rain and snow, my boss stopped by to tell me that if the weather was bad I should just work from home. It was a sweet gesture, but I politely declined. Then I asked her if I could just screw off from work instead. It would be a lot more relaxing than trying to work with the family, and 2 dogs cooped up inside on a rainy day.

So here I am. I had big plans for this holiday break. I was going to get caught up on all the grading that I had been putting off in the run up to Christmas. Then I was going to use this time to reflect, and put together some thoughtful, and heart rending posts on life. Instead I have spent most of my time cruising the interwebz, day dreaming, and goofing off with co-workers. Forget managing, and teaching, these are my true talents.

And when I don’t have co-workers around to goof off with? Why then I hold email conversations like this with friends, in response to yesterday’s post about my White Castle Mug being stolen out of my office.

Bella – Good thing Burger Meat isn’t rare (Link to eBay auction of White Castle Mugs)

Me – AAAIIIEEEE!!!!! That’s it! It IS a rare collectible!

Bella – If $12 on ebay is any indication of rareness…..me thinks it be a trick. Maybe someone will start sending you ransom pictures of your mug in exotic places. Or maybe the cleaning people broke it….

Me – Just as long as they don’t email me photos of someone peeing in it. I’m not real good about washing it out.

Me – Hey, I like this one even better! (Link to vintage White Castle Mug)

Me – Or this… (Link to Politically Incorrect White Castle promotion) I sense a new marketing campaign coming on… Me Big Chief. Buy Only White Castle.

Bella – Curious. I’ve never had a white castle slider, so I am at a distinct disadvantage here…but, I fail to see the connection between those little square burgers and the indigenous peoples of native America.

Me – I believe the Indians brought them to the first thanksgiving.

Bella – Now I understand why you bring them to office pot lucks.

Me – I’m all about tradition.

Bella – How was it stolen? Did you forget to turn on the infrared sensors and spy cameras in your office? I know you have them in there so you can practice your Katherine Z-J moves.

Me – Me Big Chief. No need Camera. Just use Tomahawk.

Yes dear shareholders. That is how I manage your company for you. Don’t worry, the dividend check is in the mail, and we will get back to work on Monday morning. With or without my coffee mug.

Have you seen this mug?

Missing: One White Castle Coffee Mug. If found please contact http://www.20Prospect.wordpress.com


No, of course you haven’t. That’s a silly question to ask the Interwebz. In keeping with the Spirit of the Holidays, someone stole the coffee cup out of my office sometime between Christmas Eve, and Monday morning.

It’s a funny thing for someone to take, but I have found that theft in the office is usually on the small scale. No one steals a laptop. Instead they take a stapler.

Except of course, the folks that steal millions of dollars from the shareholders everyday. We call those folks ‘Wall Street”.

Why on earth anyone would want my three year old White Castle Mug is beyond me. Maybe it’s a collectible? The only other thing I have ever had stolen from work is a pair of socks and a towel out of my gym bag. Those most definitely were not collectibles.

So for the time being I have brought the John Deere tractor mug out of retirement. At least until I decide on a new mug for the office. It will not be a 20 Prospect mug. I most certainly want to keep my dark corporate overlords unaware of the presence of this humble little piece of subversive behavior.

Mmmm... cookies...

…and oh what Heights we’ll hit, On with the show this is it!

I took 20 Prospect Jr. and Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect to see True Grit last night. We’ve been wanting to see it ever since we saw the trailer for it back in November. I have to say, it lived up to our expectations. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend it. It’s the least “Coen Brothers” movie that the Coen Brothers have ever made. This time around they stayed true to the original story, and stepped out of the way of the already well formed characters. The acting was terrific. I know this because my 11 year old daughter told me so.

But as great as the movie was, the venue where we saw it was even better. The Heights Theater in Colombia Heights is the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the state. It is a delicious Beaux Arts theater, built in 1926, and it has been lovingly restored to it’s original condition.

When we moved to town in the 90’s, the place was a turquoise painted dump that showed dollar movies. Colombia Heights isn’t Uptown, and is one of the dumpier inner ring suburbs in town. It was never a place that I would have considered going to see a movie. But in 1998, the current owners saw the hidden beauty beneath three quarters century of grime, and bought the place. We should be forever grateful that they did.

Before...

After!

Stepping through the door is like stepping back in time. Going to a movie there feels more like a performance, than it does a movie. The theater has an opulence that the multiplexes could never dream of, and it reminds you what a magical experience movies must have been in the 20’s. This is old Hollywood, the stuff of dreams. Where factory workers, and farm hands could go on a Friday night and escape to far away lands, and exotic romances that could help them forget their lot in life, if only for a few hours.

On Friday and Saturday nights, they have an organist playing the Wurlitzer before the shows. (Unfortunately, they don’t on Mondays). We’ve been there before on the weekend, and it is really something to walk into that red velvet landscape and see the organist down in front of the stage, booming away. It feels like a sacred space.

The Mighty Wurlitzer

In this day of Netflix, and Blu-Ray, and Stadium Seating Multiplex’s, the Heights is a wonderful reminder that technology doesn’t always equal progress.

Here we go a wassailing…


It’s just as well that we no longer celebrate all Twelve Days of Christmas. We pile so much into the one day that we do celebrate, that I couldn’t survive eleven more just like it. This thought occurred to me today as I was reading Washington Irving’s “Old Christmas” sketchbook on my brand new Kindle. Reading those stories of old English Country Christmas traditions, minced pies, and Wassailing, I began to realize that over consumption has been around for much longer than we give it credit. Even in the 1800’s people were already lamenting the passing of “old Christmas” and the replacement of family with gifts bought at a store. The more things change…

It was a quiet Christmas at 20 Prospect. The Mrs. was scheduled to work night shift on Christmas Eve, so we stayed in town and just spent Christmas at home this year. In the end the hospital called her off, so we went to midnight mass instead. One of the peculiar things about midnight mass in Minnesota is that it is seldom at midnight. Ours was at 10:30 pm, but I guess it was already Midnight in Newfoundland, so we called it good. I love our parish, but the big brick gymnasium that we have for a church just doesn’t feel sacred enough for Christmas. I want statues, and candles, and soaring vaults echoing with the sound of organ music. Shadows, incense and a priest mumbling mysterious incantations in Latin. In short, I want magic!

We were up by 6 am, and opening presents with the kids. Santa was as generous as he always is, and despite our best intentions, we continue to spoil the kids rotten. There won’t be many more years of Lego’s left before they transition into surly teens just counting the minutes until they can go out with their friends. Why didn’t anyone warn us how quick they would grow? It seems like just last year that I spent Christmas day assembling large blow molded plastic pieces into kitchens, scooters, and basketball hoops. Now I spent 4 hours configuring iPods, and setting up a wireless router. I have gone from being one of Santa’s elves, to being Santa’s IT support.

Amazon Kindle - $189, Coffee Mug with 20 Prospect Logo - Priceless


It was made all the more complicated when our 8 year old LCD monitor chose Christmas morning to go to the great micro-electronic junkyard in the sky. So before I could do any of this, I had to bring the 42” TV over to the desk and hook it up to the computer. Folks, I have seen the future and it is BRIGHT, and LARGE. I had to wear a baseball hat to keep the glow out of my eyes when I was typing.

Which meant that today I had to stop at Best Buy on the day after Christmas to get a new monitor. Shopping at Best Buy on the day after Christmas is not anything I would ever expected I would do in this lifetime. Insane. I am here to report that the citizens of the Twin Cities have single handedly pulled the combined economies of China, South Korea, and Taiwan out of their recession in one afternoon. Such orgies of commerce are frightening to behold.

But the weekend wasn’t entirely spent wired to the internet. We also found time for fresh air. Thursday evening 20 Prospect Jr. and his hockey teammates met at one of the outdoor rinks for a couple of hours of pick up hockey. This is our favorite way to play the sport. No pads, no referees, no stressed out parents, just a mob of kids and outdoor ice, the way the game was meant to be played, before youth sports became “SERIOUS” business.

Thursday Night Shinny

On Thursday night we picked up another 4 inches of snow, so on Christmas Eve we went to Elm Creek Park, and took the kids Cross Country Skiing. Mrs. 20 Prospect and I used to do a lot of cross country skiing before the kids were born, and we’ve waited quite awhile before getting them into it, for fear they’d hate it and all would be lost. In the 10 years since we skied regularly, the Three Rivers Park District has poured millions into the ski facilities. They also built a snowboard, and tubing hill, and are doing a booming business on winter sports. It’s not the sleepy little trail system for bearded guys in wool knickers that it used to be.

Skinny Ski Heaven

Not that I have anything against bearded guys in wool knickers. In fact, I’m sorta partial to them.

It ain't easy being vertically challenged

Then there were walks in the woods with the puppies, to get them their exercise, and work off a few cookies before returning to the trough. I have to say, the past three days have been the most laid back, and relaxed Christmas I can remember. Next weekend we will head to Eau Claire for the Full Gospel Sound of the Family Christmas, with kids, and Potica, and Ham, and cards, and a little too much red wine. (God willing)

Snowy woods near our house where I walk the dogs

Until then it’s back to the grindstone, where I hope to pass the week as quietly, and unobtrusively as the shareholders will allow.

Welcome back folks.

Here's to another season of skating under the belly of the Water Tower

Merry Christmas

Arthur Hughes - "The Nativity" (1858)

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

– Luke 2: 8-14

 

For a more detailed view of this gorgeous painting, visit the wonderful online collection of The Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

The Shepherd


The stars blink on in the cold clear air. Already the sunset has faded, and the indigo night descends on the desert.

The shepherd warms his hands over the fragile flicker of flame, and adds another branch to the fire.
The sheep huddle close, bleating petitions into the dark. Mothers warm their lambs beneath their wooly affection.

In the distance a dog barks, and a murmur runs through the flock.

Tongues of flame lick the fresh wood, and the light flares. The shepherd lifts his eyes away from the fire toward the sound of the barking.

The sheep stir around him, and pull closer to the circle of light. Reaching into his bag, he pulls out a stone, and turns it over in his hand. It’s smooth surface, having long since lost the memory of midday sun, is icy to his touch as he slips it into his sling.
Grabbing his staff, he rises and walks slowly towards the sound. It is growing now, but drowned by the nervousness of the sheep. Squinting into the abyss of night that has descended, he sees a glow of light coming from beyond the crest of the hill.

 

No wolf he’s known can light the darkness. He thinks of staying with his flock, but cannot draw his eyes away from the golden light. His feet move of their own will, and even the rocks seem to beckon him onward.
The darkness recedes as he reaches the summit, and the sound of the sheep has faded into the distance. Far below in the valley

he hears

singing.