Sunday, July 31, 2016

A little about Otto

It has been 10 years since the old man died and I still miss him. Although I resented him for leaving me an orphan I do my best to understand. He was always there for me and then, all of a sudden, he wasn't. Fortunately, my brother was with me so I didn't have an overwhelming feeling of being alone.

We rarely argued, but once in a while we would. At least he would listen to me even if he thought I was wrong. My opinion had some value and he always seemed to take the time to listen.
Here he was on a relaxing weekend at the beach. He must have finished the cottage because he didn't take gobs of leisure time to do nothing. That's my brother absorbing sunlight on the blanket in about 1964.

He came from nothing and did pretty well in life. He was smart and industrious, but always kind and considerate. Once in a while he would run out of patience, but not very often. He was a textile chemist at DuPont and a dye expert. At the time of his retirement he supervised about 200 people in the laboratory.
He would get back to Norway (and occasionally Iceland and Denmark) to visit family every few years. Both his younger brothers died before he did and one while he was visiting. He kept going back to visit their families and some of his old friends and more distant relatives, but after his brothers were gone he was always a bit sad. He was a terrific correspondent and always sent birthday cards and letters to just about everyone he knew. After I left home for college I usually got at least a letter a week and never went more than two weeks without one for the rest of his life.
Here he is in Norway after going out fishing with his youngest brother.
The big one is a cod.

Here's one from Thanksgiving about 1963 or so.
He didn't do all the cooking, but he did a lot of it. He made the usual American fare, but I looked forward to the special Norwegian foods he would make.  One of my favorites was raspeballer which is a potato dumpling and goes by many other names. He baked Christmas cookies annually and would always send me some packed in a coffee can. I would eat those and get lost in a childhood dream-state. Then there were the Norwegian pancakes which are basically crepes. It is what you put in or on them that customizes them to your taste. They were one of the last things he made for me.
My cravings for goat cheese, pickled herring, sardines, flatbread, and cardamom cookies continue to this day. At least my local grocery store carries most of that.

Although he played French Horn in bands as a young man he was also a good singer and often sang in church choirs. He always encouraged my brother and I in our musical endeavors. I played trombone in the school bands for about six years but the band conductor was such an asshole that I gave it up. I wanted to try guitar and he bought me a cheap one from Sears just to test the waters.  I liked to try rock and roll and started playing by ear until I could play along with a few things on radio. Although, like most parents, he occasionally said, "How can you listen to that crap?"  The Sears guitar was a piece of shit, but gave me a start. It fell apart after a couple of years and in 1966 he bought me a Framus twelve string that I still play fifty years later. I think I'll grab a beer from the fridge and go play it for a while.

Thanks Otto. You were everything I could have wanted in a father.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trump and (is?) Cancer

I will be fine, but they took a silver dollar sized piece out of my scalp. The downside of being fair-skinned and blue eyed. We'll try and let it heal on it's own or graft if necessary, but I won't be gorgeous for a few months. The voices in my head have shut up as they seem to know I will go in there after them if they aren't careful. Here is the look I will be sporting for at least a few weeks. I made it kind of Cheeto colored to see what it must be like for you-know-who.

I had a small deja vu experience this morning. This vision of Charlton Heston (when he was still a liberal) came to me. What happened to him in the original Planet of the Apes movie and his revelation of the truth of his circumstances comes in the closing moments of the film. It reminds me so much of what could happen if Trump, now the darling of the Republican Party, actually gets elected.
I can't believe that was all the way back in '67 (the Summer of Love) that this movie came out. Back then it seemed like a lot of films tried to have a lesson on the state of affairs in the country or in the world. There are apparently a lot of Americans that didn't learn anything from our previous mistakes. Maybe the mistakes weren't big enough.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's Always Something

If it isn't one thing it's another.

Here are the basics on skin cancers:
  • The vast majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cells carcinomas. While malignant, these are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. They may be locally disfiguring if not treated early.
  • A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas. Malignant melanoma is a highly aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body. These cancers may be fatal if not treated early. 
I have talked with two friends that had the other kinds just to get an idea of the fun involved. Lucky me, I have basal cell carcinoma that is going to be dealt with this week. At least I get to go to (that bastion of Northern Minnesota culture) Duluth for treatment. Then I'll be pretty again. Since it is on my forehead I'll ask the doctor to feel free to go deeper and let out any evil spirits that might be lurking in my brain. Especially if he hears the same voices I do from in there.

A technique called Mohs surgery will be used. I'll let you look it up if you really want to know. It says in the little brochure they sent me, "Mohs surgery also is indicated for cancers located in areas such as the nose, ears, eyelids, lips, hairline, hands, feet, and genitals, in which maximal preservation of healthy tissue is critical for cosmetic or functional purposes."

It turns out mine is near where my hairline USED to be and therefore is only cosmetic and not functional as I no longer have a functioning hairline. Genitals and eyelids sound a bit scary or at least more concerning.

This is about the only part of White Privilege that is not a plus. We are what we are by accident of birth and I have followed in my father's footsteps pretty faithfully. At least in terms of health all the crappy stuff has now happened and I should have fairly smooth sailing from here on out as long as the repairs hold up. I don't have a written warranty on any of this stuff, but I should at least recognize if anything starts to fail.

Being a man and one with a certain amount of Scandinavian heritage I would normally be expected to ignore symptoms, aches, pains, lesions, etc., and just tough it out. It used to be easy when I was immortal (that is really close to immoral), but now that I realize that I CAN actually be killed quite easily I have begun to take a different approach. While life isn't always the proverbial bowl of cherries, it is, so far, better than the alternative. I'll let you know if that changes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Grand Marais Art Festival

I knew the Arts Festival was underway when I walked downtown yesterday and caught a whiff of Patchouli oil in the air. Nothing says "art" like the scent of Patchouli. There were about 80 exhibitionists, or exhibitors as they often call themselves. Since I actually know about a handful of the folks showing their various items I thought it would be fun to look over the whole thing. There was a good crowd and a lot of actual talent among the participants. At least a whole lot more talent than I can muster up on an inspirational day. Click the pics to embiggen.

 I think the fire hydrant is not a sculpture, but an actual hydrant!
 The woman in the light blue dress should probably take a break from her beer guzzling. Unless that is not a beer belly and she is pregnant in which case she should also not be drinking beer.

The harbor was also a nice place to be and adjacent to the festival for that cooling off effect that one needs on a warm day. No one threw any art into the lake (but what a great concept!) out of frustration or disgust. There was music, and sailing, and even rock skipping by someone wearing a coon skin hat.

There was a lot of really cool stuff people have made and the atmosphere was festive without being nutso like a state fair.

Our local Art Colony has presented this show for 26 years now and have a pretty good idea how to do it. There are lots of special and hands-on exhibits and demonstrations for all ages.

One of my favorite artists is my friend Elise. She is at this show as a fiber artist specializing in wool felting. Everything from wearables (slippers, hats, mittens, vests, scarves, etc,) to woolly scrubs, finger puppets, hand puppets, cat beds, potholders, and more. She also teaches some of these things, along with wool sock repairs by felting, at North House Folk School. She is a pretty handy friend in a climate as cold as this.

I also get to run into friends I don't get to see very often and do a little catching up. People watching is always fun, as well. I am not much of a portrait photographer, but once in a while I get a nice shot of some friend, acquaintance, or total stranger. In this case the latter, but her face says a lot. I think she is inspired and will grow up to make a successful and well known artist. I can see it in her eyes.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Projects and Flowers

This weekend's project was to stop procrastinating the repair and replacement of the passenger side running board on our truck. I had been putting it off for months, but there is rarely a passenger, so...

After removing what was left of it yesterday I threw the remains in the bed of the truck so I can toss it in the dumpster at work where no one will recognize it. Here are the remains.

It was long past safe and pieces were starting to dangle. Being "thrifty" on occasion and not caring if the new steps looked sleek and shiny I decided not to spend a couple of hundred dollars for new ones and bought instead a 10 foot treated 2x6 at my workplace (employee's discount, doncha know). I cut it and shaped it a bit and painted it black (because I'm a Rolling Stone's fan, maybe). I did have to add a few pieces of angled steel and bolt and screw them into place to make it sturdy.
While it is not a thing of beauty on a shiny clean truck it works well, it is stronger than the original, inexpensive, and didn't cause any unnecessary bleeding or swearing.

I apologize for the dirty condition of the truck and running board, but we live on a gravel and mud road. It's been raining a lot lately.

The one on the other side was done last summer and is holding up well.
They may not be beautiful, but they work well.

Now for some beauty. It is summer and the flowers are blooming and things are growing. The cooker had me pick up a free children's bed frame last year so I did and saved it over in the old house. She wanted me to put some cedar around it to make a planter which she got around to this weekend, also.
We now have a new flower bed. Here are some of the other blooms around the yard.

Happy Canada Day, Fourth of July, and whatever else you can think of to celebrate midsummer. I hope all is well in your part of the world, at least for a little while.