What I Like About Him

Breakfast Setting

I’m going to try making some lists, adding to them as I get ideas. I could start with a list of lists:

  • What I Like about Him – inspired by my cup of coffee and the sound of the stairs creaking under his weight
  • Titles for Letters to the Editor that I’ll Never Write – inspired by an Environment Minnesota canvasser who rolled his eyes at me as he left without my signature or any money – the first thing on the list would be “Do politicians ever do the right thing just because it’s the right thing? Or are we really doomed unless I pony up to counter the pressure you’re getting from corporations? An open letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar”.
  • On the Run – How corporations let you know that you’re making a difference – inspired by Monsanto ads on television
  • Why I’m Looking Forward to Winter – inspired by a similar list my friend Lucie and I made to cheer ourselves up. She has since moved to Phoenix. It appears that “wool sweaters” moved from “Why I’m Looking Forward to Winter” to “Things I don’t miss about Minnesota.”
  • Apps I Might Use if I Had a Smart Phone – inspired by the dead rabbit I saw in the road on the way back from the community garden this morning – I imagined that a city worker would eventually take it away if another animal didn’t get to it first – I thought a person could use a smart phone to identify the location of roadkill, hence creating a map to make such clean-up more efficient
  • Podcast Notes – inspired by my plans to produce a podcast – it would have subject and format ideas as well as things I like and don’t like about other podcasts – on the top of “don’t like” would be the inability of many hosts to let a guest (the reason I’m listening to your stupid podcast) finish a sentence.

Why lists? I just like the idea of them. Maybe having a place to put stuff will calm my mind or be a place to go whenever I feel empty and in need of a creative spark. George Carlin was a list maker, wasn’t he? I’m not thinking about The Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television. I’m thinking more about routines like the “Advertising Lullaby“. Unlike Carlin, I’m not collecting lists for the purpose of writing comedy. Oh, I’d love to be a comedian, but I’d settle for being able to hold your attention long enough to tell you something without you checking your text messages or looking up a fact with your smart phone because I mentioned that the corn chowder has chorizo in it and you want to know – right now – exactly what spices are in it.

So this list is “What I Like about Him.” I’ll add to it over time. Look at it as another form of journal writing (this calls for dating my entries, right?).

What I Like about Him

September 3, 2015
Typically when I get up, I have a nice breakfast before I do much of anything else, with the exception of putting the dishes away while the coffee brews. On a rare occasion I’ll be sucked into my computer before breakfast and even before the coffee is done. For example, today I’m trying to wrap up a website for a client and I wanted to get some tasks out of my head and onto a…list. Is it clear that I’m a list maker? …in any case… On those days, Brian might notice that the coffee is done. It’s hard to miss because the coffeemaker beeps no less than seven times when it’s ready, which reminds me of another list I need to make: “Shit that we don’t need!”, to which I will add, “Cars that honk when you lock the doors using a remote”.

…so he notices the coffee is done. In the meantime, I’ve gotten lost in whatever project I’m doing. What does he do? He brings a cup of coffee to me in my office. No matter how many times he has done this, it always surprises me and it’s always a little strange to see him – not a coffee drinker – standing there bare-chested with a cup of coffee in his hands. It’s no stranger than if he had been smoking a heater or had served a McCafe to me from a drive-thru window. Has he taken note of the official coffee cup order of preference? Knowing him, it’s possible. And typical of me, I can’t say for sure.

Hummus Veggie Wrap

Right before I had left my hometown to take a job in Saint Paul, I took a cooking class at my favorite restaurant in Rapid City. Veggies was a venture of Seventh-Day Adventists. Unlike Mary who was the owner of the restaurant and our teacher, I’m not positive that God intended for people to be vegetarians. Nevertheless, Mary did make a compelling case for being one (actually a vegan, it turns out) and eating whole unprocessed foods. She reaffirmed what I had read years earlier in a random book I found. Sugar Blues argued that sugar was a processed drug, not unlike (do I remember this correctly?) cocaine.

Maybe the book was overstating it. But, I’ll never forget the story Mary told us about a school that was having serious discipline problems. She claimed to have corrected the problem by taking over the cafeteria. She got rid of the sugar, the white bread, the dairy and – of course – the meat. She described a transformation where failing students with a penchant for picking fights became model citizens. Before they couldn’t concentrate or sit still. Now they could. And according to Mary, it was about the food. I believed her. After all, the reason I took her class in the first place was because I noticed that I felt better whenever I had lunch at her long-since closed restaurant. A meal there was always totally satisfying.

I still have the cookbook I bought when I took Mary’s class. The Best of Veggie’s has everything from main dishes like croquette’s with cashew gravy that will stand up to the comfort food of my childhood (think Grandma’s roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, sweet carrots drenched in butter, rolls) to vegan mayo and homemade ketchup. So, I was surprised that something as basic as a hummus recipe didn’t hit the mark. Was the ¼ cup of lemon juice a typo? I made it work by adding more beans. But the hummus recipe that my mother gave me last week over the phone is better. From my post-it note to you, here it is with some adaptations:

Hummus Veggie Wrap
Author: 
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
A hummus veggie wrap is a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner.
Ingredients
Hummus
  • 1 can garbanzo beans - reserve juice
  • 2 ounces sliced jalapeno pepper (I used one big ass jalapeno from my garden. It could have taken more)
  • ½ TSP cumin
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TBS reserved bean juice
Note
  • The above makes a dry-ish mixture that didn't seem quite right. I added a dollop of peanut butter (I would have used tahini instead if it had been available), a splash of tamari, and a little extra bean juice.
Wrap
  • Hummus (see above)
  • Tortillas (buy or make, see below)
  • Veggies of your choice: I used cucumber, red pepper, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Black olives, pickled jalapeno and crushed walnuts would have been a good addition. I put crushed walnuts on everything.
Instructions
  1. Blend hummus ingredients in a food processor or mash by hand.
  2. Warm tortilla - I heat mine directly on a gas burner on the stove, turning it with tongs
  3. Spread hummus down the center of a tortilla and sprinkle with paprika
  4. Layer veggies on top of hummus and fold tortilla closed. Don't know how? Look it up on YouTube.

Brian knows that anything I cook is accompanied by the “How would I change this?” conversation. With the fresh tomatoes from my backyard shining in this dish, the obvious answer would have been to grow more of my own veggies. It’s easy to grow cucumbers, onions and peppers. Also, I could have replaced the canned garbanzo beans with cooking up some dried ones, which would have taken just a few minutes in the pressure cooker.

A more challenging improvement would be to make my own tortillas using just three ingredients as shown in this video. Is it really that easy? Or will my ambitions go the way of my pasta machine, which is rarely used even though fresh pasta is notably better than anything I can buy with the possible exception of what I can get at Cossetta’s?

The prominent “Handmade Locally” on the package of the tortillas I have in my fridge makes me feel good. The story on the back of the package about the family behind the business is also touching.

“…Together they worked long hours at low-wage job after low-wage job to support their family until they took a roll of the dice and began peddling an unlikely product: fresh corn tortillas.”

Never mind that it is flour tortillas that I have. After reading the list of 20+ ingredients of which I recognize three (bleached wheat flour, water and salt), these “locally made” marketing techniques quickly lose their luster.

Cutting the veggies lengthwise for a wrap works well.

Cutting the veggies lengthwise for a wrap works well.

Add whatever veggies you like.

Add whatever veggies you like.

Fold the bottom of the wrap up first then roll the sides in.

Fold the bottom of the wrap up first then roll the sides in.

10.5" x 7/5" pine boxes will be used for shelf supports.

Painting the Basment

A few years ago rainwater got into our basement and damaged a finished bedroom there. To address the source of the problem, I spent a summer fiddling with the grading on the side of the house. This year, with the help of a friend who showed me how easy it was to do, I repaired the the mortar of the cement block walls before applying Drylok. Then, we replaced the old fiberglass batting with a rigid Styrofoam product, bringing the insulation up to code. We had considered using a two-part spray foam because we were under the impression that it is the best product available. However, after reading about some negative experiences people had with chemical sensitivities that caused headaches and, in extreme cases, made homes uninhabitable, we decided it wasn’t for us. The decision saved us the hassle of boarding our cat at a friend’s house while the work was in progress. The contractors assured us that it wouldn’t be necessary to do this. However, our veterinarian disagreed.

We also took the opportunity to insulate the rim joists with foam boards that are held in place with a one-part spray foam. This had been on the to-do list ever since our first energy audit in ’08. The work required taking some panels out of the drop ceiling and moving everything out from the walls. Result? Boxes of books all over the house. I’m anxious to unpack! However, with the basement largely dismantled, I thought it would be a good time to paint.

The Internet is full of tips for choosing a color for a basement. The short answer for our situation (not a ton of natural light, adequate recessed lighting) was to stay away from pastels. They can look drab without enough light to reflect. Also recommended was a saturated color that doesn’t have too much black in it. After a few false starts, we settled on Behr’s Pure Turquoise.

Here are some pictures so far.

Looking from bedroom to media room.

Looking from bedroom to media room.

Before

Before

A bookshelf will go here. We're going with

A bookshelf will go here. We’re going with “college style” bricks.

I have a fun color picked out for that post.

I have a fun color picked out for that post.

Before

Before

After

After

It's shaping up

It’s shaping up

The left is the trim. The right is the

The left is the trim. The right is the “fun color”.

I want to paint a mural on this door.

I want to paint a mural on this door.

This old laundry cart was inspiring...

This old laundry cart was inspiring…

Update: August 18, 2015

I’m still enjoying working on this project and try to make progress every day – even if it’s just to tidy up or re-position the drop cloths to get ready for the next thing. Here is some evidence of progress.

Painting this post was a treat.

Painting this post was a treat.

I like how this turned out.

I like how this turned out. The ceiling tiles have also been freshened up with paint. It made a big difference in how the room feels.

I used the same blue for the cement blocks that will support shelves for books.

I used the same blue for the cement blocks that will support shelves for books.

I spent the morning getting the shelves ready.

I spent the morning getting the shelves ready.

Update: August 25, 2015

I just got back from Al’s workshop where he made me some pine boxes I wanted to try as supports for my bookshelf project. I love them! I’m excited to see the whole thing come together! My plan is to use a clear shellac on the boxes in contrast to the shelves where I used amber. I’m so glad that I asked for Al’s help as he steered me away from some design flaws and added some really nice finishing touches. For example, notice the edges on the face of the boxes are rounded. I learned a lot and that was fun!

10.5

10.5″ x 7/5″ pine boxes will be used for shelf supports.

Last week my friend Lucie who was escaping the Arizona heat came by for a look at the project. I took her suggestion and went with the dark blue accent color for the wedge that is revealed on the side of the staircase.  I love how it turned out.

No one would ever see the room from this view, but I still like the effect.

No one would ever see the room from this view, but I still like the effect.

I met this little guy when I first got started on the project and didn’t have the heart to dislodge him. I figured he’d eventually move on. But there he is in the same spot by the window.

Spare the spider!

Spare the spider!

Not-so-Bland Beans and Weenies

Last year I attended a talk about healthy eating and the one thing that stuck with me was the recommendation to eat a big variety of food, counting spices. Gleaning from similar talks (lectures about nutrition apparently bring in the money at PBS), I picked up that an easy way to incorporate ginger into your diet is to add a pinch to oatmeal. Among other things, ginger is an anti-inflammatory medicine that can ease arthritis pain. Maybe it would make me feel a little less creaky after a day working in the yard? Eventually, I was putting a combination of spices in my oatmeal or warmed with fruit that would be added on top of it or some yogurt. A little ginger, cinnamon and vanilla swirled into a combination of frozen peaches and blueberries that are heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes fills the air with the smell of baked a pie. It’s really good.

Last night, noting that he had picked up some Field Roast Vegetarian Frankfurters, Brian suggested I have beans and weenies for dinner (He was settling on yogurt and fruit – I was in the mood for something hot). Along with The Honeymooners, the dish was the Saturday special when he was growing up and it remains a go-to favorite in our own home. With only a few minutes before the Cleveland-Golden State game was to start, it sounded perfect…only this time I decided to jazz it up.

While it seemed like it could have gone either way, it turned out really good.

 

Not-so-Bland Beans and Weenies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Field Roast Vegetarian Frankfurters OR a substitute of your choice, cut lengthwise and then sliced into half circles
  • Onion, a handful, chopped
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans, 16 oz can
  • Cinnamon, a couple of shakes
  • Ginger, a pinch
  • Oregano, a pinch - don't overdo it
Instructions
  1. Warm some oil in a saucepan
  2. sauté the onion and red pepper flakes for a few minutes
  3. add the frankfurters and brown
  4. add the baked beans and enough water to rinse the can mostly clean
  5. stir in cinnamon, ginger and oregano
  6. bring to a bubble
  7. simmer for 10 minutes

 

In the past, I’ve tried to make baked beans from scratch because I’m not a big fan of “a can of this a can of that”. They weren’t very good. I’ll have to give it another shot.

On the cutting edge: MN4K Takes a break from a tie dye t-shirt fundraiser to protest our shitty media

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Sarah and another supporter whose name I don’t know.
102_0217
I still refer to Sue (pictured) and Greg and their two kids as “the amazing Skogs.”
102_0220
Lou and Donna. Those light blue signs that you can’t read from a car still make me laugh. Only Faith Kidder knows why.
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Dan and Jed. Dan’s sign is so Dan. “Courage Minnesota!”

It was December 2003. It was freezing cold. My toes hurt. And yes, the Deaniacs – mean spirited though they might have been – had speculated correctly. We were the type that would spend a Saturday afternoon on a tie dye fundraiser that would net a couple hundred tops. We said yes to just about anything as long as you were willing to “make it happen.” This is how you get stuff like “Coatless for Kucinich.” It’s not for us to say where to direct one’s passions.

On this day, we said yes to freezing our asses off because Ted Koppel/ABC had made the decision to exclude the non-viable Dennis Kucinich from a nationally televised debate. We protested KSTP or “big media” as we liked to call it. Nobody cared. Nothing went viral.

I had somehow dragged my friend Lou along. It wasn’t the first nor would be the last time he would move from my sphere of theater friends to the political group. The last time we saw one another was at a precinct caucus in my new neighborhood several years ago. Our state representative rallied the troops.

“Give yourselves a big hand! We all know you could be doing something else!”

The akward self-congratulatory smattering of applause would make way for political maneuvering, with those who understood Robert’s Rules of Order having an edge over the newcomers. With a packed governor’s race at stake, campaigners vied to dominate the district convention rules committees. Not unlike the first precinct caucus I had attended as a Kucinich supporter, it made my stomach hurt.

I haven’t been to a precinct caucus since.

I watch plenty of garbage television shows but the local news hasn’t been one of them since I was in high school. So boycotting something Ralph Nader aptly refered to as “Murder, Sports & Weather” or whatever it is that I’m supposed to do given the most recent offense shouldn’t be too hard.

Faith Kidder, the lead coordinator of MN4K back when we were freezing our asses off, used to insist that we put things in terms of what we wanted and not in terms of what we didn’t want. It could be annoying. She once interrupted me to suggest that I say “situation” instead of “problem.”

“So a person doesn’t have a drinking ‘problem?'” I challenged. “They have a drinking ‘situation?'”

We could butt heads. But we laughed a lot. This was no exception.

With Faith’s predominate attitude in mind, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we completely pulled our energy out of the crap that doesn’t work and put it elsewhere. Find an independent news source that you like and support it. Then forget about the rest of it. Besides, KSTP was never a serious news source anyway, was it?

In the Zone – or at least near someone who is

Brian and I took a walk this afternoon. He was taking a break from writing a report. I needed to step away from writing this letter. We had made it to the river before I had somewhat of a handle on what I wanted to tell you. My grip is already slipping, so let me hurry up.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to shoot my friends Jeff and Gita pressing the apples that Jeff had just gleaned from an orchard. It was going to be good action footage for the video I was making for their fundraising campaign. They’re opening a winery in Minneapolis and need to raise $20,000 to do it without taking on too much debt.

The red Lehman’s apple grinder sat a short distance from a swing set. It was going to look great on camera. As the press became harder to crank, Jeff used a stick for leverage and pretended to be a buffalo as he pushed it round and round the grinder to squeeze out the last drop of the juice that flowed into a squat stainless steel kettle planted on the grass below.

“I love this.” He said. “I love this.”

Jeff gets ready to press apples in his backyard.

Jeff gets ready to press apples in his backyard.

I had been working on the video for weeks by the time I had heard this particular declaration of passion. I know the story. Jeff has been making wine for 20 years. He’s opening a winery with his wife. They bought and renovated a building on East Lake Street. He has a crazy idea about sourcing his fruit mainly from backyards all over the City. They’re serious. And even though he didn’t shout or pound on his chest when he said it, Jeff is passionate. Instead, it was a quiet acknowledgment of the moment that called me to be present.

“I love this. I love this.”

From the chef at my favorite restaurant to my piano tuner to the guy who’s going to reupholster a chair that has been sitting on our porch for the last six years, it’s a charge to be around people who are deeply engaged in their life’s work. So from the beginning I have wanted Jeff and Gita to succeed because it’s just cool when people get to do what makes their eyes light up. And like packing a lunch for a visitor who is about to hit the road again, there is purpose in taking care to help a person get started on the journey and it feels good to do it.

“I love this. I love this.”

I believed him. I was there to believe him.

As much as “being present” is a lovely idea and a popular subject according to Google (12M hits), I suspect that most of us don’t do this very well because giving something our full attention requires skill. We blame smart phones and texting for our inattentiveness. We used to blame television. These distractions are challenging. But, the main culprit is a simple lack of discipline. Who practices paying attention? I don’t. Would these blissful moments of heightened awareness be less random if we did?

Showing no signs of fatigue after a full day of picking apples, Jeff remarked on the color of the juice. Beautiful. He sent me into the house for some glasses so that we could sample it. By the time I returned from the kitchen, the sound of traffic had been turned up again and in the distance I could hear construction and the whirling of a leaf blower, where before there was nothing but the smell of apples and leaves and the awareness that I was standing next to a man who was internally driven. Jeff was in the zone, a rich deeply human zone. And for a second, I got to be there too.

The Urban Forage Winery & Cider House touches on a lot of things that I care about. Good wine, for one thing. Locally produced wine. That’s really nice. Gleaning fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste? Making better use of resources? Engaging our imagination as we think about how to localize food production? Inviting all of us to play a role? To become an urban farmer? A contributor in the land of the real as opposed to a cog in an abstract system that gives us no satisfaction let alone something we can drink? Now that’s where it gets exciting for me.

It was a pleasure to make a video for Jeff and Gita’s fundraising campaign. I’d like to see them have a chance to demonstrate a new model for making good products using locally grown “crowd sourced” ingredients (It makes me think that another good name for their business would have been “Stone Soup Winery and Cider House”, although Urban Forage is perfect too!). I like to think that supporting this endeavor is an affirmation of the human spirit that increases the probability that we all will be surrounded by more people who love what they are doing and – with any luck – will be one of those people ourselves.

While I know that Jeff and Gita would be thrilled to have your support, maybe you don’t have $5-$50 to help them get going on their winery. Don’t sweat it. But, please do me this favor. Practice giving the thing in front of you your full attention. Make it a point this week to really notice the person who needs help and help him or her however you can. Listen. Notice what is needed and give it. And see what happens. I would love to hear about your observations!

Thanks for giving this your consideration. If you know of others who might get a charge out of Jeff and Gita’s idea, by all means let them know about it. Most of these Kickstarter campaigns are funded by hundreds of backers with $25 donations. So, spreading the word where it makes sense would be helpful.

To see the video I made, learn more about the Urban Forage Winery & Cider House and to make a donation, see Jeff and Gita’s Kickstarter page.

Precast concrete steps

We are having some repairs done to our porch and will no longer need these precast concrete steps with sturdy wrought iron handrails. They will be available for free until Thursday. On Thursday, it may be possible to get help loading the steps onto whatever you’re using to transport them. Since taking the pictures, the steps were moved and one of the handrails was bent in the process. I think they could be bent back into place. Otherwise, the steps are in good condition with no visible cracking.

4 steps with 7″ risers
Unit:
Height= 29″
Width= 59 1/2 ”
Depth=47″

Steps_001

Steps_002

Steps_003

Steps_004

Steps_005

Steps_006

Wanted for Video: gardens, fruit trees

AppleTreeI am shooting a video for a new start-up company to use as part of a Kickstarter campaign. This new business seeks to make wine and cider using fruits and vegetables from local sources, including the yards of volunteers who have a surplus. To help tell their story, I would like some footage of vegetable gardens, fruit trees, raspberries, blackberries and even bee hives from area homes. If you would be willing to showcase your apple tree, garden or anything else in this video, I would love to hear from you. I would initially need:

  • An address
  • A description (e.g, apple tree in front yard, vegetable garden in the backyard)
  • A picture would be helpful, but not necessary

I’m also interested in people’s opinions about public areas that beautifully highlight the bounty within our city limits and might be worth including in the video. If you have ideas about places I should check out, please let me know.

Taping is scheduled to take place over the next few weeks.

Any help or insights you can provide would be sincerely appreciated. I’m happy to provide more information about the start-up upon request.

Thank you.

 

[Image: “Malus sylvestris (inflorescence)” by (Hans Hillewaert) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Malus_sylvestris_(inflorescence).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Malus_sylvestris_(inflorescence).jpg]

I love you, Winona!

WilliamS

I love you, Winona! What a pleasure it was to be whisked away by Fran and Margot to the home of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in the middle of the week. The Merry Wives of Winsor was a thoroughly enjoyable production and ensured that we will be back for more. You packed the house and now I know why.

It’s a beautiful drive from the Twin Cities to Winona State University that has been hosting the festival for the past eleven years. What? I could have seen Yo-Yo Mah for twenty-five dollars at your Beethoven Festival? Now you’re just bragging. No wonder the inn keeper was bustling on air when she put on that fresh pot of coffee. I thought she might actually do a pirouette.

On the way down, we cut over to the Wisconsin to snake our way down the river to Stockholm. We saw eagles swooping just off the bluffs and that never gets old. After wandering through an art gallery where I was sorry that my parents had not been with us as I saw a million beautiful things they would have loved, we cheated and enjoyed our dessert before dinner at the Stockholm Pie Company. Then it was to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. What a treasure. Again, the woodcut prints by Nick Wroblewski made me wish that my parents could have made the trip. My dad would have been impressed.

We didn’t do anything especially noteworthy for dinner, although my spinach cranberry salad at the Green Mill hit the spot. Then it was to the show (delightful, as I said) and back to the motel. Before leaving the next day, at breakfast we learned from a Harley rider who was waiting for her man to get out of bed that there was a lot more to see. A bank with stained glass windows? I won’t miss it.

Thanks for a lovely day off, Winona.

Waste and Appreciation

ErnieWatching the Wolves take down the Spurs got me thinking about waste and appreciation. It’s fitting given the team’s marketing slogan this year: “Don’t Miss a Moment!”

Sitting in the lower deck facing the home bench, I noticed three Black teens who were looking sharp and passing for 20 something. Six and half minutes into the game, they got the boot when a pair of ticket holders on what looked to be a second or third date showed up to claim their seats. With the Wolves out of the playoffs and the game being a make-up for the Mexico City cancellation, a thin crowd emboldened these nomads and a host of others to negotiate their way from as far as the nosebleeds to a better view. Spoiling a cloak of confidence, our youth would get bounced two more times before they would finally settle in the row in front of us where they enjoyed the game in peace except to shrink in the shadow of trickling latecomers who would block our view as they scanned for their seats.

By the fourth quarter a game well in or out of hand will prompt an exodus of fans driven to be the first to line up at the parking pay stations, of parents getting a jump on the bedtime routine or of smokers tamping packs of cigarettes as they go. As hordes of deserters flee to do whatever is next, our transients bounce again – this time voluntarily to the best seats of the night, if only to be enjoyed for the last crumbs of the game, 163 seconds.

Season ticket holders arriving deep into the first quarter and leaving before the final buzzer is common. Even with a fraction of a second left in regulation, we could be down by two with K-Love at the line for a chance to knot it up and still flowing steadily toward the exit signs will be the half-hearted, preoccupied and the self-inflicted hurried.

scoreAs if to invite a dance, pressed shirts will prod their companions with the pressure of two fingers applied to the small of the back. With feigned self-detachment, fresh manicures and cruel shoes are guided passed an imaginary sea of the envious. Shared with hot mini donuts and cotton candy, a final trip down the runway is savored.

Cut with enough Wolves gear, Ken and Barbie are bearable. With the primary exception of the deplorable bandwagon fans of major market teams who will rub it in given the chance, the arena has a good vibe. From where we sit, every age is represented. Every color is there. It’s common to hear foreign languages. Unlike the Democratic National Convention where I saw the staging and the coaching of multicultural “delegates”, the game naturally attracts diversity. It’s an elusive goal for a lot of organizations that fret, “Look around this table! Everyone is white!” The easy criticism is often hurled by the well-meaning politically correct or an especially unimaginative resume-builder. While these detractors couldn’t articulate an organization’s mission or get excited about it, they’re certain that offering “culturally appropriate” snacks will fill their insufferable meetings with the disenfranchised.

While the game doesn’t have this particular problem, it can highlight some of our worst embarrassments. Wealth radiates from center court, to the corporations that occupy courtside, through the first eight rows of first class fans who are guarded by diligent ushers and who are afforded the dignity of ordering their French fries off of a menu, while the rest of us lowlifes have to flag down a hawker who’s balancing peanuts on his head. Then it’s passed the private party rooms and up to rafters where the cheap seats bring to mind the economic disparities of the Titanic. Radiating further out into the streets, beggars make a pitch for diapers, a way home or a night at the shelter.

Andrei Combative language is used to describe the game, while its fans are frisked at the door and told to report cussing and any other non-family-friendly behavior. Here players are weapons who penetrate the paint and attack the basket. While we had him, with exception of the week following the Connecticut school shooting where 26 elementary students were gunned down and for whom there was a hollow moment of silence at the Target Center, whenever Andrei Kirilenko would score, the in-arena announcer would yell “A—- K—- 47!” Hundreds of fans formally complained about it. But the franchise couldn’t convince the player to ditch the nickname and had no power to compel him or the equally clueless and inaccessible announcer to do it. It was a relief when the Russian signed with the Nets. He was making a moral dilemma out of what should be simple pleasure: Being part of a crowd that erupts when Love knocks down a buzzer beater, or when a stealthy Brewer cuts in for another steal, or when Rubio makes a no-look pass through traffic to Dieng for the dunk. It’s hard to appreciate the game when you’re getting kicked in the gut, especially when you’re already sucking up a bunch of other infractions, such as the absence of any fully clothed women who play anything but support roles.

To cope with the crammed escalators and the insanity inducing congested parking ramps, our strategy hasn’t been to ditch early but to stick around until security gives us the hook, usually after DJ Mad Mardigan packs it in. Nevertheless, while squandering enviable seats is weirdly elitist, it also makes me wonder. How have I wasted? How have I rushed? How have I failed to appreciate what I have?

When I was working at a French group home, I recall jumping up to clear the table and do the dishes after a meal with the residents at “La Garenne”, our beach home on the English Channel. Abandoning 30 dinner guests to scrub pans was taken to be rude, not helpful. Kitchen duty was a conspicuous price to pay for a minute to myself. We were expected to linger.

A trip to Missoula presented another “Don’t Miss a Moment” lesson. I was joining my friend Chris for his college reunion and was late meeting him for our departure from his Newcastle home. Construction in the southern Black Hills jammed me up for almost an hour on a dirt road with a lost New Yorker who had never seen a buffalo; at the age of 30, he had never left Manhattan until then. Over the apology I offered upon my arrival, Chris popped a TV dinner – one for each of us – in the oven and offered me something to drink. After a leisurely bite, we took his golden retriever to the sitter. Bob obliviously launched one subject after another as we kicked rocks in the driveway and the dog politely listened without comment. Somehow, after securing our bikes to the top of the car, we finally set out only to stop but fifty miles down the road where Chris insisted that we get a “real milkshake” from an “authentic soda fountain”. He acted like I was a refugee who had never seen ice cream before. As dusk came and went, we opted to sit at the counter instead of enjoying our frosty treat like normal people – in a speeding car. It turns out that “making time” is overrated.

I don’t always fail.

Trying to catch a nap under buzzing fluorescents in the hard melamine chairs of a Greyhound terminal while guarding my wallet has enhanced my appreciation for good bed, specifically the feel of a mattress pressing against my back, a generous pillow cradling my head, the smell of clean pressed sheets, and a blanket holding it all together with its perfect weight, a barrier between my skin and a cold draft; I am keenly aware of the roof and the elements from which it keeps me safe.

Staying for the movie credits is another relished small act of resistance in a world that keeps telling me to hurry up. It’s also a nod to my brother who is an actor. After taking in a show, it seems rude to sneak out just as we are about to recognize the creators who must be thrilled to see their names scrolling by. I only wish that such courtesies would enhance my trivia knowledge. I’d like to be the sort who can whip out the answer to questions like “Who played ‘Bus Driver #1’ in It Happened One Night?” It was Ward Bond and I will never be a trivia buff.

Ironically, McDonald’s marketers have detected a collective discomfort with our neurotic multitasking and they’re using it to endear us to their brand. In one commercial a travelling businessman is encouraged to enjoy his coffee unplugged. In the sequel (the sequel?) with only the ambient noise of a train station, we see that our businessman has learned his lesson.

In a separate “slow it down and unplug” ad campaign, Sports Authority holiday commercials tell us to “Give the gift of sport.” We’re promised that our soccer balls will never need an upgrade and this is somehow the most refreshing thing we’ve ever heard.

It’s unlikely that corporate marketers hold the answer to a call to dial it down. But these ads could indicate our creeping unhappiness with being herded and rushed and constantly plugged in. Will our dissatisfaction eventually inflate us with the resolve to live at a human pace? Or will the humble luxury of a McCafe or some similar product calm our yearnings as promised, keeping us just happy enough?

In the meantime, I’ll take to heart the lessons of the uninitiated, youth who scramble for a better view to savor what so many of us dismissively toss out.