Nostalgia is the sweetest drug

This is the time of year when I sink deep beneath the blankets of sleep, and dream my most vivid dreams. I think it has something to do with the shortening of the days, and the pale sun that struggles to make it above the treetops. It triggers some sort of chemical reaction in my brain, that starts the ancient hibernation process within my soul. Sure, evolution and science have taught us that we are descended from primates, and primates don’t hibernate, but ask the Native Americans and they will swear that the animal man is most closely related to is the bear. If I had to choose, I’d prefer to be cousin to the Grizzly over the Gorilla.


So I lumber through the daytime, and collapse into bed each evening, diving deep beneath the green waves of dream, until I settle somewhere on the weedy bottom of the lake of consciousness. Memories slip through the murky water like silver fish, and when morning comes, and the nets are reeled up, I find myself laying on the deck beside the wet flapping of my dreams.


These memories that swim in the deepest parts of the lake, are like foreign species. Half remembered, half forgotten, over time the line between facts and fiction blurs beyond recognition. Do any of these stories contain the truth? Or are they merely attempts to grab something fleeting, that cannot be captured. In the end these stories stand apart from the past, and become a reality all their own. A written record of events that were as ephemeral as dreams. I pile them here like cairns to mark a trail so that I can find my way back.


One day we will descend into these emerald depths, and remain there, tangled among the weeds. The light above flickering dimly through the water, as we close our eyes and continue sleeping.


The Youth Hockey Cult

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… well, not really. Unlike last year’s Snowmageddon, we have yet to have a winter storm. Heck, it was over 50 degrees on Thanksgiving. Wearing short sleeves around the house in late November just ain’t right, so we took matters into our own hands and spent the weekend inside of the ice rink. It was 20 Prospect Jr.’s thanksgiving hockey tournament, so we spent 3 days on retreat with the hockey cult.

According to, a cult is: “a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better description of youth hockey than that one. Hockey parents tithe up to 10% of their annual salary to the church of youth hockey. Our weekend revival was held at the Basilica of St. Herbie, and attended by teams from all over Minnesota, and as far afield as Thunder Bay, Ontario. Yes, we have so damn much hockey that even the Canadians feel compelled to come down for ecumenical services.

St. Herbie

For folks from the Southern parts of the country, it can be hard to understand just what cultural similarities exist between your stereotypical Bubba sipping moonshine from a mason jar, and the average youth hockey parent. Trust me, they have more in common than you think.

Oh sure, there are plenty of articulate, professional parents in tony suburbs like Edina & Wayzata that sign their kids up for youth hockey. I’m sure that most of them even have a full set of teeth. But don’t let their socio-economic status fool you for a second. That only means they can afford nicer SUV’s to lug their children’s foul smelling hockey gear from rink to rink. It also means they can afford a better class of liquor in their basement bar. The one room in the house that is usually adorned with a framed & signed game worn jersey, and a Terrence Fogarty print.

Painting by Terrence Fogarty

For the average hockey parent an old pickup truck with a gun rack, and an association sticker in the back window will suffice. Sure, Jr. may need to thaw the pads out before he can put them on in the morning, but that just builds character. Why back in their day they practiced outdoors in -40F windchills at 4 in the morning, and they never complained once.

Youth Hockey in Minnesota is a community based affair. The state is carved up into Dioceses by the Hockey Sanhedrin, each one running its own season, and annual tournaments. Teams are based on geography that usually coincides with school district boundaries. So if you want your little Wayne Gretzky to play hockey for the Edina Hornets you need to either live in the Edina School District, or send them to school there. So from age 5 until they graduate from High School kids will be raised to play beneath the same set of colors as their neighbors and classmates. The local chapels rinks are adorned with photos and jerseys of the pantheon of saints that have gone before; NHL & Olympic stars that grew up on these very same sheets of ice, and played in these very same colors as our boys and girls. It’s a quaint Norman Rockwell-esque tradition that is also effective at turning youth sports into a religious class war, and really, what’s not to love about that?

As I detailed last year with the story of the drunk referee, us folks in the North Metro fall a little farther from Edina on the political and economic spectrum. This is where Jesse Ventura won 60% of the vote during his surprise election, but even among the rednecks of Anoka County, hockey parents are a breed apart. Yeah, we’ve got our share of McMansion enclaves, but they are usually outnumbered by the trailer parks. The coffee cups that the coaches on the bench are holding are not filled with lattes from Starbucks, but brown tobacco spit. Hell, on Saturday I even saw a woman walk up to a trashcan at the rink, and hork a lugee into it. We are high class folk up here.

Of course, that will all change once Jr. signs that Pro-Contract. Once our kids are playing in the NHL, us redneck hockey parents will be awash in cash. We’ll run right out and buy a new pair of snowmobiles, and a pickup truck. Then we’ll build a 5 bedroom log cabin on a lake up North with the signing bonus. It’ll be like the Beverly Hillbillies moving to Alaska.

Until then, we’ll just bide our time in the congregation, standing along the glass in our parka’s and pack boots, stealing sips from the little flask of “hot cocoa” we keep in our chest pocket. Just another winter weekend in Minnesota.

Drive Fast, Take Chances

Gobble, Gobble, SCREEEECCHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today is the official “busiest travel day of the year”. So wherever you may be heading for the holidays this weekend, I urge you to hurry up and beat the traffic.

Like our Pilgrim forebears, who polished the buckles on their hats, and shoes, and invited Squanto and the tribe over to watch football and play Euchre, this is a holiday meant to be spent with family and friends. So as we celebrate this most familial, and least commercial holiday on our calendar, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the reasons we have to give thanks.


Is that all you could come up with?

Jeez, what an ingrate.

Whatever your holiday traditions may be, I hope that you keep in the spirit of the season, and indulge them to wretched excess. Make Squanto proud.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Blue Monday

Ahh… it’s the week of Thanksgiving. I think the week leading up to the holiday is almost as enjoyable as the holiday. People have already checked out mentally, and the mood around the cube farm is noticeably lighter. On the way to fill my coffee this morning I looked out the window at an ice blue world, and shivered.

On Saturday we received a fuzzy fleece blanket of snow. It even looks like Thanksgiving now. I can almost taste the turkey, and Pinot Noir, a reminder that I need to start my stomach stretching exercises to so I can gorge myself like a Roman.

This year we will be hosting Thanksgiving at 20 Prospect, so the next few days will be a flurry of cleaning and baking for Mrs. 20 Prospect, as I sit on my coccyx in my dark corporate lair, and day dream the hours away. Time to give thanks to my dark corporate overlords that have let me sponge off of the shareholders for another year, Lord knows how many more I can count on before the greasy gears of capitalism chew me up and spit me out too. I’ll take every damn penny I can get until that time. I figure if I’m going to sell my body and soul to Corporate America, I at least want to be a high priced prostitute. No back alley quickies for me. No sir, I’m going to make them give me dinner, and a movie first. I have some standards after all.

Turkey Day

The other morning as I was getting the kids ready for school, I looked out the window and saw this.

Or rather, I saw these.

Seven wild turkeys pecking their way across the yard. We watched them out the window for 10 minutes as they made they way across the street, and over a neighbors fence. Meanwhile, Maggie the Wonderdog and the Indomitable Moxie were beside themselves.


I have to admit, the wild version of the turkey has always looked more appetizing to me than the plumped up domestic versions. Seriously, one look at the Butterball in the freezer and you’d be hard pressed to figure out what kind of animal it was.

Which got me to thinking. With Turkeys so closely associated with Thanksgiving, how come we don’t have an anthropomorphic turkey mascot giving us stuff?

Why doesn’t Tom the Turkey, and his Pheasant Helpers pay a visit to good little boys and girls homes on Thanksgiving eve, with a bounty of treats? Of course, he’d peck the eyes out of the naughty ones in their sleep, because you can’t have a good holiday without some primeval terror to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Sweet Dreams kids!

The Wizard of Menlo Park

Every now and then, in the midst of the daily grind, you look up and notice just how beautiful the world can be. When I stepped outside at 6:30 this morning, the sky was a deep indigo blue, with stars like diamonds twinkling in the heavens, and for a moment everything else seemed insignificant. Nothing in the world can make you feel more trivial than gazing at the night sky.

Last night was 20 Prospect Jr.’s first hockey game of the season. We traveled an hour north of the Cities to the little town of Lindström. You know you’re in the Scandinavian heartland when the town has umlauts in its name.

It’s been a while since I’ve driven out in the country after dark. Growing up in Genesee County we couldn’t drive more than 2 miles from 20 Prospect in any direction before we were out in the country. Here in the cities though I can go for months at a time living beneath the glow of streetlights.

Being out in the country after dark was a good reminder that the light we have is of our own making. Whether it’s the glow of fluorescent light from a 7-Eleven, or the flicker of a campfire, we huddle close to each other when the darkness comes. It is light that protects us, and light that saves us from the wolves of doubt.

Live too long without darkness, and you can begin to feel invincible. Stand alone in an open space beneath the stars and you are quickly reminded just how unsuited we are to natural world. If not for above average brain sizes, and opposable thumbs, evolution would have done away with us long ago.

Someday I hope to leave this urban sprawl behind, and move back to a place where our home will be an island of light in an ink dark sea. It will not be easy after 20 years of city living, to sit in the dark of the porch and listen to the sounds of nature advancing slowly from the woods. Fear and doubt will prowl the perimeter of our fort, and it will be much more difficult to hold them at bay without the constant buzz and distraction of “civilization”. And yet, I think struggling with the dark is what I need to keep me sane. Only by standing on the edge of this circle of light can I see the world in all dimensions.

Until that day I will continue to sleep through the drone, and hum of this never ending stream of Edison’s electric light. Another prisoner of Prometheus.

Coccydynia is not an Island in Greece

Middle age sucks. The human body is like an old car. For each year that goes by it seems like another part falls off, and things that shouldn’t leak, start leaking. I’m sure I’m the first person to figure this out.

At some point in the past year I fell on my ass, and bruised my tailbone. I think it was during 20 Prospect Jr.’s hockey season. At the time I didn’t really think much of it, because my left shoulder was in a hell of a lot more pain. But after 6 months the shoulder pain went away, and I began to notice that my ass still hurt. Not debilitating pain, but just enough to make me feel like a geriatric.

I tried to pretend it was just stiffness from a long bike ride that was causing it, or perhaps it was from slouching in my chair at work. I figured if I just waited long enough it would go away. But last week I finally resigned myself to the fact that it ain’t stopping.

So I did what any hypochondriac 40-something would do, I started googling. Apparently, tail bone pain is pretty common among sedentary middle age folks that fall on their ass. I know, pretty amazing revelation, huh?

The medical term for this is Coccydynia, which sounds like an STD, but is just inflammation of the coccyx. Which is a fancy way of saying “pain in the butt.”

The prescribed treatment is eat less, exercise, and get off your ass. Unfortunately, this mean the condition is permanent, if not quite terminal. So I have swallowed my pride, and done something I never thought I would do. I put a pillow on my chair. Not just any pillow. It’s actually a foam seat cushion for sitting at sporting events that I modified by cutting a small wedge out for my coccyx.

(Hey, stop making fun of the size of my coccyx! Guys are sensitive about that sort of thing.)

It was at this point that I realized I have become an office archetype. The dreaded “Seat Cushion Person.”

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time working in an office, you know that there are several universal archetypes:

The Back Pain Sufferer: There’s the poor bastard with back issues. This person is always complaining that they need a special chair, and when they finally realize that the building operations team doesn’t give a sh!t about their pain, they start bringing in all sorts of contraptions to give themselves better lumbar support. Pillows, cushions, exercise balls, the list goes on and on. Eventually, they have made so many modifications to their chair that it begins to resemble the cockpit of a fighter jet. I feel for the back pain sufferer, and I like to point out that medical professionals have said that sex is the best thing for back pain. So they should go ___ themselves. (Kidding!)

The Carpal Tunnel Lady: I suppose that men suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome too, but I have yet to run across one in an office. Maybe it’s because we suck at typing, so we never get to the point where the nerve endings in our hands start to burn. Carpal tunnel lady can always be spotted by the ginormous armor that she wears on her wrists. Like a falconer, she wears a reinforced gauntlet stiff enough to clothesline a running back. So don’t mess with carpal tunnel lady.

The Sensitive Smeller: The sensitive smeller is constantly stopping by your cubicle to ask “can you smell that?” The source of the smell can vary from someone’s lunch in the microwave three floors above, to a diesel truck parked a block away from the building. No scent is too small to escape the bloodhound like nose of the sensitive smeller. And the presence of any sort of scent in the office is enough reason for them to stop working, and start complaining. We eventually got so tired of one sensitive smeller’s complaints that we dis-assembled their computer when they were out of the office, and placed a Pine Tree Air Freshener inside of it. When they returned to their office and started their computer the little cooling fan inside the CPU would make their office smell like a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba. By the end of the day the sensitive smeller was curled up in a fetal position on the floor, sobbing.

The Loud Talker: If you have only one loud talker in your office, consider yourself lucky. The loud talker apparently believes that modern telephony is like two Campbell Soup cans tied together with a piece of twine. Because of this they feel the need to shout into the receiver so that within a few weeks, everyone in a 30 foot radius is familiar with all of their medical, and financial history. We once took a soundproof hood from an ancient Teletype machine (look it up kids) and placed it on their desk when they were out on a trip. Then we removed their phone cord, and replaced it with one that was only 4 inches long, so that to speak on the phone the loud talker had to stick their head into the soundproof hood.

The Respiratory Sufferer: This person is a close cousin of the sensitive smeller. The difference is that the presence of any strong smell, or fume in the office is enough to send them into fits of phlegmatic coughing, until they eventually ask to go home for the day. I once had a cube neighbor who actually feinted, and collapsed on the floor when the smoke from the barbeque outside the window started coming into the building and forming a cloud in our office. As people rushed from every direction to see if she was OK, I rolled my eyes, and kept typing at my desk thinking “Faker”. This is why I am no longer allowed to be a first responder.

Burnt Popcorn Person: The presence of the mysterious burnt popcorn person in my last office was so annoying that we removed the microwave popcorn from the vending machine. This stopped them until their next trip to Target, where they stocked up on Orville Redenbacker and returned to burning a bag of popcorn every day at 2pm. The Burnt Popcorn person is a master of disguise, who somehow slips through every dragnet you construct, because they know that once they are discovered they will be moved into the aisle with the Sensitive Smeller, and the Respiratory Sufferer for entertainment purposes.

The Cookie Monster: The cookie monster is addicted to sweets the way that a hillbilly with a twitchy eye is hooked on Meth. And like a drug addict, the cookie monster will deny their addiction. You would think that the cookie monster’s addiction to sweets would mean they always had a bowl of candy in arms reach, or struggled with their weight. Not so. Paradoxically, the cookie monster is skinny and will never bring goodies to the office to share. Instead they will troll the aisles looking for unattended candy dishes. Put a cake or cookies by the copier machine and the cookie monsters will flock around it like moths to a flame.

I could go on and on  lamenting that I too have joined the ranks of the annoying office archetype. Especially since I am sitting on my Coccyx-pain relieving pillow. But I’ll save the rest of the list of annoying co-workers for another day. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go burn some popcorn.

Feast of the Solemnity of Nigel Tufnel

November 11th is a solemn day here on the front porch. A time when we pause in remembrance. There are so many things I could write about today. It is the anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, the first great 20th Century Cataclysm.

Or I could write about the great Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, when a freak snow storm hit the Midwest so fast, and so hard that 145 people died.

Or I could write a solemn piece about Veteran’s Day, and all those who have given so much so that we can enjoy the freedom to sip coffee at our desk, and surf the internet for p0rn.

But no, I will not tackle any of these worthy topics today, instead I will pause a moment to honor the great Nigel Tufnel, and then I will turn my speakers up to Eleven.

Rawk On Nigel, Rawk On.


The wind has died and the stars are breaking through the haze of city lights. Sixty degrees at eight o’clock in the evening, and I am breaking a sweat in my coat. The dog trots ahead in the darkness, weaving across yards, following the scents of hidden creatures that have passed this way before. We round the corner and climb the hill, past the Russian Orthodox Skete tucked into the row of ramblers and split levels, distinguished only by the incongruence of the wooden gate, and the small Orthodox cross atop the roof. The dog sniffs out the wild garden growing in the front yard, and somewhere in the darkness, the burning eyes of icons watch us pass. My breath grows heavy, and my footsteps slow as we climb the hill.

Above the stars strain to shine through, and I try to make out the familiar shapes of constellations. Here in the city the figures of men and animals are incomplete specks of light, waiting for a divine hand to sweep away the screen of city light that keeps them hidden like sacred mysteries. I have seen the priests before, taking out their trash, looking like anachronisms in their long gray beards. How did they end up half a world away from their Russian home, on this frozen prairie? Three hundred years after Hennepin and the Jesuits, they have come to minister to a handful of immigrants trying to hold onto their past. We pass in the dark, silent as savages.

My eyes surrender to the haze, and my mind wanders back down to the streets around us. The windows of homes glow with the flickering blue of televisions, and honey yellow incandescence. The dog pauses, and whines at something hidden, still as an icon in the shadows. I listen, but there is only the chant of cars passing on the highway. I give the leash a shake and we continue on our round.

How many seasons has it been? How many times have we circled these streets through the exile of winter, the soft promise of spring, the erotic embrace of summer, and the warm parting kiss of autumn? Sniffing the scents on the night air, listening to the rustle of leaves and the hollow call of owls, searching the branches of oaks for their silhouettes. We repeat this journey like pilgrims, returning again to search the sky for the answers surely hidden behind the sheltering heavens.

The Comet Kohoutek