I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Season 9 Preview

The temps are in the fifties. More important, the temperature at 7AM is above 33 degrees.

And after a couple of lean-ish years, it looks like biking season starts for me at 7AM tomorrow!

I wrote a lot about biking to work from 2007 through 2010. Back then, I had a job in downtown Saint Paul. It had a locker room and a couple of really fun, obvious routes which – this is important – were alongside or near bus routes. That way, if I had a mechanical problem on the road (always a possibility, when I was riding my early-eighties road bike as I was at the time), the worst case was I’d get to work on time.

It’s been a little tougher since then. In 2011, I worked at a very bike-friendly company – in Minnetonka. It was a 16 mile ride each way – easy enough if you’re in shape, difficult if you’re not. So I spent much of the summer building up to commuting. This involved finding “park and ride” lots at varying distances from the office, a little further each week. Which led to a big leap around mid-summer; from park-and-rides in Saint Louis Park, seven miles from the office, to having to ride all the way across Minneapolis (where there are no park and rides), and do the whole 16 miles.

Which, at long last, I did – once. I rode 16 miles to work in the morning. And then I rode home that night. And as I got to the top of the long, grueling climb up Marshall Avenue, two miles from home, I got a call – my son was in the ER, the beginning of a three month ordeal that had me at the hospital most evenings, living on Jimmy Johns and Cosetta’s Pizza (yum) and losing most of the gains I’d made over the summer.

The next season – 2012, or Season 6 – I worked at a company in West Bloomington. A 22 mile, non-bike-friendly commute to a building that had no locker room. Biking was out. The next two summers – 2013-14, or Seasons 7-8 – I worked at a job that was nominally bike-friendly – they had a locker room of sorts (a shower stall in one of the men’s rooms) and a theoretically manageable distance (11 miles). But it was one of the worst routes in the Twin Cities; from Saint Paul backstreets to the brutal (if you’re out of shape) climb up Pilot Knob. Worse, most of the route wasn’t along any kind of transit; a blowout would mean an hour of pushing a bike to a bus route or to the office. I made a half-hearted go of it in 2013, and didn’t bother last year.

And it shows this year. I’m not in the worst shape I’ve been in, but I can see if from here.

But I have an eminently bikeable job this year, in a great route for getting back into shape (with some easy upgrades when I get my wind and legs back), a locker room, a place to park a bike, and a spring that, so far, is turning out to be excellent; I don’t recall the snow being melted and the tempersatures above 33 at go-time at all in the past years.

So I’ll see you out on the trail!


Back in 2005, I started writing a series – “Twenty Years Ago Today” – about various episodes that have happened in my life 20 years previously, starting with my decision to move to the Twin Cities.

As I worked my way through 130 episodes of that series over the course of about six years, I often marveled at how much things changed over the six years in the story – and in the 20 years hence.

And I’m getting close to the same, whack upside the head moment right now. Because it was 13 years ago today that I started writing this blog.

13 years ago today, I was an angry, incoherent, voiceless guy with a couple kids working at a misbegotten dotcom that was rapidly swirling down drain of the post 9/11 tech bust. This will probably be the 12th time I related the story – I read an article in Time Magazine about Andrew Sullivan, a leading “conservative intellectual” voice in the new, do it yourself medium of blogging.

And that night, after I hustled the kids to bed, I sat down at “blogger.com” and tapped out the first ever installment of “Shot In The Dark”. And suddenly, I was…

… Well, still angry and incoherent – but I had a voice.

It goes without saying a lot of things of happened since then; the blog led me to the talk show; the talkshow lead me to the regional forefront of blogging as a brave new medium, in the middle of the last decade.

That, of course, was then. Blogging has receded from the bleeding edge of cultural consciousness since then, and with that a lot of bloggers. There are people who ask why keep blogging?

Because I enjoy it.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been periods of intense burnout. I just went through one of those, in fact; postelection fatigue and unexpected job change over the winter led to one of those, from which I’ve just emerged over the past couple of weeks. And writing through those periods of burnout has, in its own way, then even more personally instructive and interesting than the periods where I feel like I’m on fire; I’ve learned a lot from prevailing over my own mental limitations in those situations

Of course, writing when you are absolutely on fire is a lot of fun too.

Anyway – as always, I think all of you readers for having gotten, and stayed, interested over this past 13 years. I know you won’t take it as ingratitude when I say “I do it even if none of you to dinner every day” – I do it because I enjoy writing – but having all of you here every day is certainly a kick, too.

So thanks!

They Call The Wave Maria

It’s Mr. Dilettante’s daughter’s birthday today.  And he’s written a wonderful post on the subject, which I think pretty much any parent can identify with.

I have mostly left my kids out of the blog in recent years – mostly because I didn’t want the small minority of creepy stalkers that plague my public life to slop over onto them.

And there are times I resent that.

But until the creeps finally dissolve in their own bile, Mr. D’s piece will certainly suffice.


As I mentally get ready to start a new job that is well within biking range, I can’t help but read about U2′s Bono, and his biking accident in New York.

Bono broke his arm in six places and fractured his eye socket, hand and shoulder blade in what he called a “freak accident” in New York.

Ow.  Ow.  Ow.  Ow.

At the time, the hospital where Bono was being treated said he had been involved in “a high-energy bicycle accident when he attempted to avoid another rider”…The 54-year-old Dubliner revealed he now had a titanium elbow.

Ouch.  Ow.  Owwwww.

Irish singer-songwriter Bono and his band U2 pictured in Berlin late last year

Bono said he “blanked out on impact and have no memory of how I ended up in New York Presbyterian with my humerus bone sticking through my leather jacket. Very punk rock as injuries go”.

Aaaagh.  Owww. Ow.  Owwwwwwww.

Bono continued: “Recovery has been more difficult than I thought. As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor western civilization are depending on this.

“I personally would very much miss fingering the frets of my green Irish falcon or my (red) Gretsch. Just for the pleasure, aside from writing tunes.

“But then does the Edge, or Jimmy Page, or any guitarist you know have a titanium elbow, as I do now? I’m all elbows, I am.”


I’d mention that Nils Lofgren has two replacement knees, except aaaaaaaaaaaagh.

He talked about learning from his mistakes adding “the first of which is the discovery that I am not an armoured vehicle”.

I love biking.  And biking in the city is certainly all about having 360° situational awareness.

But, in addition, aaaaaaagh ow ow ow.

The Doldrums

In February, I’ll have been doing this blog for 13 years.  And in that time, I’ve been through just about every kind of cycle there is – all between 5:30 and 7AM, weekdays.

Some days – especially in the runup to election time – the material just comes from I have no idea where; I sit up at 7AM, and I’ve got five posts written for a day, and two for the next day, and I wind up taking notes for several more on my phone during the day (major shout-out to the WordPress app for smart-phones!).

Others?  It’s like dog-paddling through maple syrup to get anything done at all.  Which is part of the point, for me;  developing the self discipline to write something every day I’m physically able.  It’s helped in a lot of other parts of my life, so it’s a big net gainer for me.

This last month has been different.  And it occurs to me why.

Two years of DFL majorities in the Legislature have meant no down-time; the Democrats made a big run at Second Amendment rights in 2013 and again last session; the customary stretch of downtime between election and session, where I normally write about music and history and leave politics alone, evaporated.

This is my first fall without substantial politics to write about since the fall of 2011.  And it took me a while to remember how to deal with those two months of inter-MN-political writing doldrums.

The answer, of course, is to take a deep breath and find other things to write about, things I enjoy rather than out of some misguided notion to try to save the world.

And everything’s pretty darn good, once I get past that!

On A Winter Night…

…in the winter of 1980, on an evening where the air was cold and dry enough to tickle your nose a little, not a lot different from this one, I asked a girl to come out on the floor near the end of the high school dance, for one of the slow songs.

And to my shock, she said yes. 

And you could smell the heating in that old high school building, and the smell of a whole bunch of high school kids – flop sweats, cheap booze, cheaper cologne, and anticipation, as we – well, I – stumbled awkwardly out onto the floor.

And the band counted four, and they started into a pretty faithful cover of this song:

And for four minutes, the world felt perfect.

Veterans Day

I never quite know what to say to veterans.

Hear me out, here.

Saying “thank you for your service” seems trite – almost mawkish.   Someone who never served saying “Thanks for going overseas and getting shot at!”?

See what I mean?

In the meantime, what I want to say is “glad you made it home”.  But I can see that being taken the wrong way.


So I’ll wing it.

Veterans:  thanks for spending the best years of your lives in barracks, troops ships, foxholes, berthing spaces, CVC helmets, cockpits and gun mounts, doing things most of us can’t imagine, to protect the freedoms too many Americans take very much for granted.

It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it doesn’t have to.

Election Night, 1984

It was a chilly evening – as I recall, snow was falling in Jamestown.   Or threatening to, anyway.

I walked from my “home” at the time – Watson Hall at Jamestown College – to the polling station.  I turned the decision over and over and over again in my head.

On the one hand, I didn’t see myself as one of “those” people; “fatcats”, “fundamentalists”, “warmongers”, any of the labels I’d been painstakingly trained to believe applied to conservatives.   Truth be told, I still saw Republicans – or at least a lot of other Republicans – that way.   And I believed that government – a rational, “good” government, the kind that a lot of Good People, like me, would elect, if we got the chance – did have a place in making peoples’ lives better.   Four years ago the previous summer, at North Dakota Boys State – a mock state government put on by the American Legion – I’d become the state Federalist Party chairman.  I wrote a party platform, all full of “redistribute” this and “regulate” that, the kind of thing that Paul Wellstone would have just loved.  And we won.

And the press – which was even then liberal, especially the parts of it I paid attention to, “Rolling Stone” magazine and the like, had left me terrified four years earlier at the thought that Ronald Reagan was going to re-institute the draft and send us all overseas to fight for Exxon.

On the other hand, some of my adolescent certainty in my adolescent beliefs was decaying.  I’d felt the first twinges years earlier, reading “The Black Book” – the B’nai B’rith accounting of Nazi war atrocities – and realizing that a disarmed society was ripe for the picking.  And I remembered listening to Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech, and thinking “What – you got yours, and now you’re telling me I have to settle for less?”.

And I saw what had happened in Vietnam, where a liberal majority in Congress had rendered the sacrifice of 56,000 American soldiers utterly vain, and the national humiliation of the Iran Hostage Crisis.  And I read Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, and wondered if, indeed, national weakness and self-abnegation would indeed keep all those missiles that the goverment had planted around me in North Dakota from firing after all.

My high school pal and unwitting political mentor, Dwight Rexin – a real-life Alex P. Keaton in his own way, a fire-breathing radical libertarian-conservative – grabbed me (rhetorically) by the scruff of my neck through 11th and 12th grades and explained to me – very, very patiently – how the stagflation that still wracked North Dakota was a product of wanton government intervention in the economy – the kind of thing I’d been brought up to think was a good thing that benefited real people.

And a year before, a family of Polish refugees, the Krzameks, had moved to town.  And hearing their side of the Cold War – the oppressed “citizens” of the Second World – gave me a perspective on the time that I’d never had.

And at college, at the behest of my English major advisor, Dr. James Blake – who, after a few months of talking with me about politics, current events, faith, life and the world around us, told me in his New York accent ”You’re no liberal, Mitch.  Seriously”.  He had me read “The Gulag”, and “1984″ to learn current events, and “Crime and Punishment” and “War and Peace” and “The Possessed” to learn the philosophical cases for and against the big, “progressive” state, and about Jack Kemp’s free-market reform proposals, and P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptile” to see just how conservatism could resonate with a guitar-playing, grunge-before-it-was-cool fish out of North Dakota water.

And all of this tumbled around in my head as I signed in, and got my ballot.

On the one hand?  I was angry.  I knew what I really was!  A thoughtful, “Moderate”, “good government”…something.

And on the other hand?  None of that seemed to add up anymore.  “Good Government”, the world around us seemed to show, really was the one that governed least, and left the most to the people themselves.

The lady at the desk gave me my ballot – a “butterfly” ballot – and pointed me to a voting “booth”, a little plastic carel.

And I opened the ballot up to “President of the United States”.  Because of North Dakota’s ballot-access laws, there were something like two dozen candidates on the ballot.  And because of a court case that had been filed and won by a Jamestown man, Harley McClain, after the 1980 election, (he’d protested the fact that the GOP and Democrat candidates were at the top of the ballot, and the SCOTUS agreed, and so ballots were thereever-after either alphabetical or random), I had to dig down through the choices.

I got to “M”.  “Harley McClain – Chemical Farming Banned Party” was right above Walter Mondale.

I thought about Mondale – spawn of Carter.  The needle hovered over the chad…

…and I stopped to think.  I came close to punching McClain’s chad as a protest against the conundrum I was in.

And then, in a mental flash of “do it before I regret it”, I punched Ronald Reagan.

I dashed through the rest of the choices.  I think I split my ticket, likely voting for Byron Dorgan for US House as a sort of emotional contrition for voting Reagan.  I turned in my ballot.

I walked up First Street South, then down Main Street to “Fred’s Den”, a bar which had open stage night on Tuesdays.  There was a set of drums and some amps and guitars on stage, but the evening hadn’t started yet.  I ordered a Stroh’s at the bar and had a seat.  The TV in the corner was tuned in to the local cable access station, and they were showing election results from around the US and around town.

As I sat, in came a small group of men, including none other than Presidential candidate Harley McClain himself; a hippie and musician, he was a regular at open stage night.  At Open Stage the previous week, I’d promised him I’d vote for him.

Not only had I not voted for him, I’d pretty much voted diametrically against him; one of the songs he sang constantly at open-stage night, a 12-bar blues song he sang while accompanying himself on the guitar, made his politics pretty clear:

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan

That man is a pagan.

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan,

yeah, that man is a pagan…

“Hey, Mitch!”, he yelled, “Didja vote?”

“Yep! Voted for ya!”, I lied.

As open stage started up, the result started coming in.   I’d voted in my parents ward, Ward 2, where my driver’s license was still addressed.

Cable Access ran the vote totals by the precinct.  Harley Clain got 0 votes in Ward 2.

In fact, he got exactly three votes in all of Jamestown.

“Hey!”, McClain yelled at the screen.  “Don’t you vote in Ward 2?  There’s voter suppression going on here!”

I looked in panic at the screen.  There as a “McClain” vote in the ward containing the College.

“I voted at school”, I answered.  Mollified, McClain relented, and we watched as he racked up exactly 4 votes in Jamestown.

Reagan carried Jamestown decisively, except for the precincts by the College, where he carried Jamestown merely convincingly.   He won North Dakota with just shy of 100% of the vote, as I recall, and won all but two of the states – the greatest landslide in history.

I was happy about my vote.

Not happy enough to tell my parents, of course.

Oh, yeah – open stage night.  Tim Cross, Scott Massine and me (drums, bass and guitar) did a couple of songs.  “Summertime Blues”, “I Will Follow” and something else, I think.  And we each got a free beer.

That was fun, too.

So that’s what I was doing thirty years ago tonight.

100 Reasons I’m Voting Almost Straight-Ticket GOP

I do this every election.  I’ve got 100 reasons I’m voting a straight Republican ticket.

And Mitch ain’t one.

  1. Minnesota House District 65A:  I’m voting Anthony Meschke for US House because he’s the most aggressively pro-liberty candidate I’ve met in recent years.
  2. And yet he didn’t take the intellectually-onanistic path of joining the Libertarian Party.  More on them below.
  3. He’s got a lot of great ideas on how to scale back government’s dominance over your life.
  4. Because while I’d never smoke pot (I’m not a mellow, laid-back, hallucinogenic person; I’d be more a cocaine kinda guy, if it didn’t destroy your health and your finances), Anthony will push to legalize it – which is not the panacæa some of the more obnoxious pot activists say it’ll be, but it’ll certainly end a lot of inner-city crime.
  5. And even though I don’t smoke cigarettes, Anthony’s platform also advocates eliminating the state’s latest round of cigarette taxes.
  6. And Rena Moran is a reliable rubber-stamp for whatever the Metrocrat DFL wants.  That, indeed, is why she’s in office.  She was recruited and installed entirely to be a passive “yea” vote for all of the DFL’s dumbest ideas.
  7. And any vote against Rena Moran is a vote against the entire Saint Paul DFL machine – and as such, a little spark of hope.
  8. Because that DFL machine is in the process of turning Saint Paul into a cold Flint.
  9. And if I didn’t live in 65A, I’d be out there voting for any of the other excellent GOP candidates in the 4th CD - especially Stacey Stout, Heidi Gunderson, Randy Jessup, John Heyer, John Quinn, and Lukas Czech.
  10. And if I lived across the river in the 2nd CD, I’d vote for Andrea Todd-Harlin and Jen Wilson in Eagan, and Roz Peterson in Burnsville, as many times as the law would permit.
  11. Oh, hell – statewide.  Vote GOP for House. All of them.
  12. In the 4th Congressional District, I’m voting for Sharna Walgren because Betty McCollum is and remains a reliable rubber stamp for Barack Obama.  Or Nancy Pelosi.  Or a stuffed bear, if someone tells her it’s her boss.
  13. And because while Betty McCollum is mainly focused on pleasing her masters at a national level, Sharna will actually represent the district. 
  14. Because after six decades in office, the biggest thing Betty McCollum can point to as an “accomplishment” is nattering about the National Guard advertising at NASCAR races.
  15. And because Sharna has actually accomplished things in the private sector.
  16. And Betty hasn’t been in the private sector since before she started at Saint Kate’s.
  17. And because the Independence Party candidate’s campaign seemed to be entirely based on unicorn dust.
  18. No, seriously – in a world where ISIS is slaughtering people, the economy is in the toilet, our debt is booming, our entitlement bubble is about to explode, and our healthcare system is a self-inflicted shambles, one of the IP candidate’s top priorities is…legalizing marijuana.  While i’m fine voting for un-serious candidates, too much is too much.
  19. Because Betty McCollum is the very definition of “Washington Status Quo”…
  20. …and I think Sharna can help change that.
  21. And needless to say, if you’re a Republican living outside the Fourth – well, lucky you.  Please vote early and often for Doug Dagget if you live in CD5.  He’s worked 10 times harder than Keith Ellison in this race; in a just world, he’s have the same vote margin.
  22. …or Torrey Westrom if you’re up in the 7th CD; Torrey could score one of the great upsets ever tomorrow, with a little luck and a tailwind.
  23. …or  Stewart Millsif you live in CD8; officially putting “The Range Is Blue” to bed forever would be sweet.
  24. I have little doubt that John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer will win; Emmer, perhaps, by three digits.
  25. Or Jim Hagedorn if you’re in CD1
  26. Because if Mills, Westrom and Emmer win – all of them eminently possibly – Minnesota’s congressional delegation will be 5-5, as it should be.  For now.
  27. For Supreme Court of Minnesota, I’m going to vote for Denny Crane.
  28. That’s right.  William Shatner’s character from Boston Legal.
  29. Darth Lillehaug is one of the most wretchedly biased liberal lawyers you can imagine.  He was a terrible US attorney, he’s been a relentless DFL upsucker.
  30. Oh, yeah – and he put the “own” in “crony“.
  31. And if they ever hold Nuremberg tribunals for enemies of the Second Amendment (and I do not advocate any such thing!), Lillehaug’ll be sitting in the Von Ribbentrop seat.  Nobody who values the Second Amendment should vote for Darth Lillehaug.
  32. But wait!  There’s a GOP candidate!  Why aren’t I voting for Michelle MacDonald?  It’s not so much that I have anything against Michelle McDonald as a lawyer – although her attempt to sue the Minnesota GOP was summarily dismissed because no matters of law were actually found in the petition, which isn’t necessarily the mark of a crackerjack lawyer, or so I’m told.  I’m no lawyer.  What do I know?
  33. I do have my concerns, I should say just between the two of us, about someone who walks around holding a video camera in front of her everywhere she goes.  That’s a personal thing, but I’d be lying if I say it didn’t effect my impression of the woman.
  34. My biggest problem, however, is with how she was nominated to run.  The GOP Judicial Elections Committee (JEC) – a group of people who were elected by I have no idea who, and who met I have no idea where – endorsed her, knowing that she had an upcoming DUI trial.  They opted not to inform the delegates at the convention that this was the case.  They just marched her onstage, demanded an acclamation vote from a crowd of delegates many of whom (like me) really resent the hours of our lives we’ve spent listening to the ineffectual, cronyistic Judicial Elections Committee babbling on and on and on and on, , and that had just spent a day and a half resolving an intensely fractious Senate endorsement, and was looking ahead to sorting out a five-way donnybrook for Governor.  So about 3/4 of the delegates cheered on cue, and about 1/4 abstained, and there we were!
  35. And in the days after the news came out about MacDonald’s upcoming case spilled in – inevitably – the media, the behavior of the JEC’s members filled me with contempt.
  36. Which only got worse come State Fair time.  When Michelle MacDonald tried to bum-rush the booth at the state fair, surrounded by a phalanx of codgers from the JEC who stonewalled requests for basic information from fellow Republicans. 
  37. I’ll sum it up; the JEC people that slipped MacDonald’s nomination past a group of ass-numbed delegates are worthy only of contempt – and the GOP should do its best to eliminate the JEC and handle all nominations through the Nominations Committee.
  38. And so rather than vote for the loathsome Lillehaug or the skittery MacDonald (and thus rewarding the duplicitous committee that rammed her past the convention), I’m going to vote for a fictional lawyer.  And I hope everyone in Minnesota does too.
  39. For Secretary of State, I’m voting for Dan Severson.
  40. In fact, I’m going to do so, ironically, as many times as Mark Ritchie will let me get away with it.
  41. Severson is a sharp guy with much better ideas for the office than his opponent.
  42. Because Minnesota is rife with voter fraud, and Severson is the guy to fix it.
  43. Because elections are only half the job.  Minnesota’s Secretary of State’s office also handles business incorporations.
  44. And under DFL control, that’s turned into a Romanian Cluster-Cuddle.
  45. In short, someone is going to need to put on a hazmat suit when they go into that office.  Dan is the guy to fix things.
  46. I’m voting Scott Newman for Attorney General, because the AGO should not be a vehicle for cheap political points.
  47. And that’s exactly how Lori Swanson, and her mentor Mike Hatch, have treated that office for almost a generation now.
  48. And there are actual jobs that need to be done out there.
  49. For State Auditor, I’m voting for Randy Gilbert.  He’s an actual accountant…
  50. …and not a political hack like Rebecca Otto.
  51. Minnesota needs a watchdog for its state government.  Rebecca Otto is the DFL’s partisan lapdog.
  52. Why Not Third Parties?:  I’ve had people throw this out there.  Why won’t I vote for a third party?    Partly because I believe it’s a waste of my vote.
  53. “But a vote for the major parties is also a waste!”.  Well, I disagree, but even if it’s true, I’m no worse off than you are, am I?
  54. Fact is, I did the third-party thing, from 1994-1998.  It made me feel good, compromising none of my principles in my political life.  Then I realized – sitting resplendently above it all not only affected no policy whatsoever (no Libertarian is ever going to  hold any significant public office).  I realized that the path to make the GOP jibe with my principles and thence go forward to make people free (or more free) would be easier than the one to get the Libertarian Party into a position to affect actual policy – to make people more free.
  55. “But what about Jesse Ventura!”  Proves my point.  He was elected in Minnesota’s great prank on itself – and then had to run to Roger Moe and the DFL majorityi in the Senate to get anything done.  The “Independence Party” because “DFL Lite”.
  56. Don’t get me wrong – in a perfect world, I could see voting for Hannah Nicollet, the IP’s candidate.  I probably agree with her on 80% of issues, and probably 100% of issues that matter to me (shaddap about marijuana).
  57. But the world’s not perfect, and my vote for Hannah Nicollet would be one less vote that Jeff Johnson – with whom I also agree well in excess of 80% of the time – is going to need to shock the world tomorrow.
  58. Oh, yeah – Nicollet seems pretty sharp.  But I’ve been distinctly unimpressed by the rest of the IP slate when I’ve heard them.
  59. And don’t get me started on the Libertarians.  They’ve added a veneer of annoying slickness that the LPM never had when I was in the party – but they’re still preaching pure principle, which is another way of saying “simple answers to complex questions that will never ever be tested in real life”.  And I say that as a sympathizer and former party member and candidate!
  60. For US Senate, then, I’m voting for Mike McFadden.
  61. Al Franken has been a reliable hyperpartisan.
  62. While I was an Ortman supporter until the convention (quietly so, as it is prudent for me to be), that was no swipe at Mike.  He’s clearly an accomplished guy.
  63. And the Democrats’ swipes at McFadden have been as groaningly disingenuous as ever; they’ve tried to paint him as a Wall Street bankster, while trying to ignore the Franken Family’s ties to Lazard.
  64. McFadden’s a businessman.  Franken is an entertainer – or was, I guess.  Who belongs more in Washington?
  65. Think of all the establishments that’ll wet themselves if Franken loses?
  66. The Twin Cities and Beltway DFL elites?
  67. Hollywood liberals?
  68. The coastal “intelligentsia?”
  69. The mainstream media?  They’ll all be completely outraged.  And that alone will be worth it.
  70. Because the only thing standing between us and “Supreme Court Justice Eric Holder”, or worse, is a Republican-controlled Senate.   Seriously – even Susan Collins is a useful firebreak against that madness.
  71. Indeed, harshing Obama’s mellow is an utterly justifiable end
  72. While McFadden flubbed on the “gun show loophole” issue early in the campaign – result, I’m sure, of K-Street focus group testing that showed suburban soccer moms were uneasy about “gun violence” – I think he’s made up for it.
  73. And even if he hasn’t completely?  An imperfect conservative is a more receptive audience, and a better prospect for conversion, than any Democrat.
  74. A conservative Senate is a good start toward saving this nation’s foreign policy.  Not as good as a conservative President…
  75. …but that’s what the next four years is for.
  76. And For Governor?:  There is no doubt I’ll be supporting Jeff Johnson. He is the best guy for the job.
  77. Indeed, he may be the best Gubernatorial candidate I’ve ever seen.  I was an Emmer fan – but Johnson is even better.
  78. For all of you sick of “compromising” – Johnson is not.  He’s as conservative a fiscal rep as you can find.
  79. How conservative?  He ran the “Hennepin County Taxpayer Watchdog” blog for years – and in it, he was exactly that; a ferocious watchdog for fiscal sanity.
  80. Seriously – if the Henco Commission had had more of him, the Twins might have paid for their own damn stadium.
  81. I think he’s done an excellent job of tying together the different strands of the GOP; liberty people, socialcons, business conservatives, all can get behind the guy.
  82. Because while Mark Dayton may be a decent human being, I do not believe he’s capable of governing.
  83. And I don’t think the DFL thinks so, either.  That’s why Tina “The Butcher” Flint Smith has replaced Yvonna whatsherface as Lieutenant Governor.  She’s going to be in place to take over.
  84. And let’s be honest; Dayton has never really been governor.  He is a talking sock puppet for the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and its main constituents; the government unions, the environmental lobby, and the teachers union.  He is a marionette, not a governor.  Replacing him with Tina Flint Smith would really only be a formality.
  85. Because the Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota deserves a sound electoral rebuke.
  86. As do some of the pundits that’ve been trying to drum up a pro-DFL, anti-GOP “bandwagon effect”.
  87. Indeed – “upsetting the narrative” alone is enough reason for me to vote for Johnson.
  88. Because Jeff Johnson gets economic growth.
  89. And to Mark Dayton, it’s just an academic concept.
  90. And Mark Dayton (and his supporters) think “economic growth” includes “government dependence”.
  91. Because Jeff Johnson crushed Dayton in every single debate without breaking a sweat.
  92. Because Mark Dayton went to Yale, but you’d never know it by his accomplishments.
  93. Because Jeff Johnson went to Georgetown, and his accomplishments show it, but you’d never know it by talking to him; he doesn’t jam it down your throat.
  94. Because Mark Dayton’s behavior could be called “passing the buck” if you’re feeling charitable, and “not knowing what he’s doing” if you’re not.
  95. And I don’t see Jeff Johnson ever trying to pull that.
  96. Because it’ll put the Strib Editorial Board and MPR’s management on suicide watch.
  97. Because Mark Dayton routinely evades all media access (scrutiny is obviously not in the cards)…
  98. …while Jeff Johnson has no reason to.
  99. And I’ve thought so for a long time. I remember interviewing him when he ran for Attorney General in 2006, and thinking “this guy could be governor”. I love being proven right.
  100. And Minnesota could use a break for some competent government, all up and down the line.

See you at the polls.

The Longest Weekend

My first radio job, at KEYJ in Jamestown, North Dakota, started 35 years ago this past month or so.  After months – like, a year – of hanging around the station bothering the staff and trying to figure out how everything worked, the owner, Bob Richardson, decided to give me a job.  I spent most of August training – which involved coming in to the studio at 5AM Saturday mornings with John Weisphenning and Dick Ingstand, learning how to run the board and the transmitter and spin records and read news. 

It all led up to my first day “soloing” – September 1.  I got up at 4:30, got to the station at 4:45, warmed up the transmitter, picked through the 50 feet of wire copy that had printed out of the AP teletype, organized my newscasts, and got things ready go to.   At 5:55AM, I turned on the mike, read the signon script, played the national anthem, and the day got started for real.  

There were one-hour news blocks at 7, 8 – each with long blocks of national, statewide and local news, weathercasts, sports news focusing on local and North Dakota teams (the NDSU Bison, then as now, dominated all they surveyed), reports from the nursing homes, the city and rural fire departments, a run through the weeks’ arrest reports, and more.  At 10AM, “Trading Post” – a 30 minute show where listeners bought, sold and traded things.  And in between, music – punctuated by five minutes of network news at the top of the hour, and five minutes of local news, weather and sports at the bottom, with weather forecasts at :15 and :45 after the hour.  And then another hour of news, weather, sports and local flava at noon.

Once I got past 1PM, it was downhill; just music and the weather and the bottom of the hour news.  You could breathe a little. 

I was on from 5AM til 3PM.  It was a long, tiring day.  And I loved it.

And I did it again for the next couple weeks. 

The 22nd started out routinely enough; I was still a little rough, but getting the hang of things fast.  That was one nice thing about those loooong board shifts with all that news; you got a ton of  practice, fast. 

Around 1:30, Bob Richardson, the owner, called from his lake cabin.  The guy who was supposed to work from 3 until the midnight sign-off was very, very sick, and nobody else was available - Richardson would have done it, I suspect, had he been in town - and would I mind working the evening shift too? 

I asked if someone could fill in for a couple hours so I could grab some food and a shower.  He rounded up the weekday evening guy to come in for a couple hours; I biked home, ate, showered, and came back and worked until midnight – which was mostly just spinning music and reading the news at the bottom of the hour and, at about 11:55, reading the “signoff” script, playing George Beverly Shea’s “Our Father”, and signing off the station. 

I biked home through a gorgeous, pleasant North Dakota night – the bugs weren’t swarming around the street lights, so it was a good night – and went to bed, exhausted. 

I think it was 7AM when my dad woke me up; I had a phone call. 

It was Richardson; the guy who was supposed to be on Saturday Night was also supposed to be on Sunday; he was still sick, and he still couldn’t find another substitute.  Could I do it?  And, by the way, sign the station on real quick?  (We normally signed on at 7:30 on Sundays, and went off the air at 10PM). 

And so I biked back to the station, signed on (on time!); the schedule was lighter (no hour-long news blocks, and lots of church services and recorded religious shows)…

…but it was another long day. 

I got off the air at 3 – for real, this time – and walked home, counting up the numbers; 24 hours in one weekend, times my pay rate ($2.90/hour) – I made damn near seventy bucks!

That put a little spring in my step.

My Noon Post

After 12 years, this blog follows a fairly set schedule:

  • I post a couple of things as I write them, early in the morning, to catch my morning audience.
  • I post something at noon, to give people a reason to come back more than once a day.   Of course, 2/3 of all readers come to the site between 6AM and 1PM, so I don’t do much after that. 

The purpose of today’s noon post is to let you know there won’t be a noon post today. 

See you on the air tomorrow, and have a great weekend!

When Scooter And The Big Man Busted This City In Half

It was July 1, 1984.  I took off from Jamestown at around 5AM in – what else? – my ’73 Monte Carlo with a 396, Fuellie heads and a Hurst on the floor, and drove through a long, hot July day.   Poring over my Amoco map of the Twin Cities – where I’d never driven before – I got to Saint Paul, pulled off the Marion Street exit and parked up by the Cathedral (where a friend of mine had parked the car when we drove down to see The Who in 1982), and made my way down Kellogg to downtown Saint Paul around 2 in the afternoon.

I wandered down to Saint Peter and then Wabasha street, back in the days when there were still stores between Fourth and Sixth streets across from Dayton’s and Ecolab,  dazzled by the hustle and bustle of downtown Saint Paul.

I did mention I was from North Dakota, right?  And that “hustle and bustle” were very relative concepts?  Compared to Fargo – the biggest city I’d ever spent serious time in – Saint Paul was kinda hustly and bustly. 

In those days, anyway. 

Some of the landmarks from my wandering are still there; the Coney Island still has the exact same hand-scrawled paper “Under Renovation” sign today that it had back then, I think; I thought about eating at Mickey’s Diner, but it was too crowded and I wanted a damn beer.  Others – the Burger King/Taco Johns in the funny glass building on 5th, across from Daytons; Daytons itself; Brady’s Pub, where I stopped for a burger and a beer for lunch, Gallivan’s - are long gone.

After lunch, I wandered down Fifth to the Plaza in front of the old Civic Center. 

The old Saint Paul Civic Center.

 It was getting toward three in the afternoon; I heard some noises inside, and it sounded like the band was getting into its soundcheck.  The plaza – including the long row of stairs leading to the endless rank of doors – was thronged with people, mostly looking for tickets.  I walked past, listening to the sound of a bass guitar tuning up.

And I figured “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

I walked to the very leftmost of the long row of doors that overlooked 7th and Kellogg, and gave it a furtive tug, expecting to find it locked.

It wasn’t.  It pulled open a few inches; I could hear someone tapping on a drum set.

Understand – I was never much of a rule-breaker.  I was always terrified of being in trouble.

But I checked to make sure nobody was watching, inside or outside, and slipped indoors.

I hustled across the concourse to a gate, stepped inside…

…and saw the E Street Band, down on the stage, a level below me.  Nearest me was the Big Man, with his sax, wearing sweats and a cap.  Danny Federici was on the riser behind him, checking registrations on his Hammond.  Nills Lofgren was warming up downstage.  Max Weinberg tapped drums as the sound guy rang out the room.  Gary Tallent played some scales; Roy Bittan noodled on the keyboard.   Then they stopped, chatted, and then Max counted four, and they launched into an instrumental of “Glory Days”, as the sound crew adjusted levels.

I grabbed a seat, and watched the band, and listen to the sound guys tweaking the levels, and just marinated in the whole wanton lawnlessness of it all.

About the time the song ended, someone tapped my shoulder.  It was a roadie, in a black t-shirt and jeans.  I half expected to get my ass kicked – and it would have been worth it, honestly.

“Excuse me, sir…”

“Yeah, I know”, I responded, getting up.  “I’ll leave”.

The roadie nodded.  “Thanks”.  He was downright polite about the whole thing.  “Hey, before you go – how did you get in?”

I showed the roadie the unlocked door, and he thanked me as I stepped back out onto the plaza.   I walked down to Kellogg…

…as a white Olds Cutlass with a “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band “Born in the USA Tour 1984″ Tour” decal rolled past.  In the passenger seat was Bruce.

I waved.

He waved back.

I walked down to Paddy McGovern’s for another beer.  I had some time to kill.

So technically that – and not the actual concert, still 5-6 hours away – was the first time I ever saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live. 


Eventually – the doors opened at 7, I think – I got into the building legally, found my seat (row 59 on the floor),  and waited for the show.  And waited.

And waited.

And finally – right around 9PM – the lights went down, the crowd got on its feet, the band filtered onstage in the dark, and a spotlight picked out Springsteen at the mike.  He counted off four, and Bittan’s skirling synths and Weinberg’s drums kicked off “Born in the USA”.

The rest of the show?  It’s a blur – and yet vast swathes of the show are as clear in my head as if I’d just seen the show:

  • Born in the U.S.A. - In its full, bombastic glory.
  • Prove It All Night - Nils Lofgren – who was a world-class guitar hero and solo artist for over a decade before joining the E Street Band – got to take an extended solo, trading licks with Bruce during an explosive, eight minute version of those Darkness-era classic.  
  • Out in the Street -  This was where Patti Scialfa ran out onto the stage and made her debut; it took me completely by surprise (I had avoided reading any reviews of the show’s first night, two nights earlier).  
  • Reason to Believe – As I recall, it was a sort of rockabillyish arrangement of the Nebraska classic. 
  • Atlantic City - I had always dreamed about doing a full-band arrangement of this song.  This one was it; huge, thunderous, everything I’d thought it should have been.
  • Open All Night -
  • Mansion on the Hill  – Open All Night and Mansion on the Hill were kind of a test; after the powerhouse opening, switching to a couple of numbers with just Bruce and Nils on acoustic guitar.  Some of the crowd wanted to rock – but for the most part, people stayed tuned in.
  • Darlington County - After the downbeat Nebraska segment, the party started again. 
  • Glory Days
  • The Promised Land Then as now, one of my favorites.
  • Used Cars
  • My Hometown - along with Used Cars, another slower sweep – although My Hometown was a gloriously intense full-band arrangment.
  • Badlands – Aaand the reward to everyone for hanging in there during the quiet part of the set; the roof may not have come off the Civic, but it sure came off of me.
  • Thunder Road

I think the band stepped out for a brief intermission here. 

  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Hungry Heart
  • Dancing in the Dark 
  • Sherry Darling
  • Nebraska
  • Pink Cadillac
  • Fire
  • Bobby Jean
  • Ramrod
  • Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)  – We didn’t quite realize how lucky we were; they stopped performing this one on tour not long after, and only played it rarely live for many more years.

And then the band left the stage.

And returned a few minutes later to play an encore:

  • I’m a Rocker  – It had been kind of a light, trifling garage-rocker on The River – but here, it was an epic, thundering anthem.
  • Jungleland  – The lights came down, and Bruce started the first verse…and forgot the words.  And as he stole a look at a cheat sheet, the crowd of 18,000 finished the verse until Bruce got back on top of the lyrics.
  • Born to Run (segue into) Street Fighting Man  – This medley alone was worth a blog post of its very own.  The band tore through “Born To Run” the way it was meant to be torn through.  And then – as the band vamped through the ending of the song, Bruce counted four, and the house lights came on, and the band ripped into a full-electric version of by far my favorite Rolling Stones song.  And I stood on my chair – I hadn’t actually sat in it since intermission – and looked around at 18,000 people dancing in the aisles.  And I got a little dizzy from the sheer sensation of the whole thing; it may have been the most perfect rock and roll moment I’ve seen.

They left the stage again – but the crowd would have none of it.

  • Detroit Medley  – of which not much needs to be said.

The concert let out around 1AM.  I debouched onto the street with the rest of the crowd, and made a beeline for my car, up by the Cathedral.

And as I walked up Cathedral Hill, I thought – yeah, it ain’t no sin to be glad your alive.

And as I walked up a side street toward my car, I looked back at Saint Paul, all lit up and teeming with people and knew it; I just had to start angling my life plans toward getting out of North Dakota after I graduated.

(For those who were around at the time?  No, it was the second night of the tour.  I didn’t get tickets for the first night, June 29, at the Civic – the opening night of the entire tour.  The one where they filmed the “Dancing in the Dark” video, in which a very young Courney Cox, planted in the audience, was introduced to the world via a “live” vid produced by Brian DePalma. Sure, you remember it.

But it was pretty cool anyway.  Here’s a fanpage with a ton of scanned memorabilia from the June 29 show, and a much less complete set of swag and quotes from the show I was at.  And here’s the complete audio from the June 29 show – the opening night of the Born in the USA tour, two nights earlier).

Oh, yeah – the ticket?  For 59th row on the floor?  $16.50.

Why I’m No Longer A Libertarian

My old friend Gary Miller is giving a speech to a Young Republican group tomorrow.  Or maybe a College Republican group.  And it might have already happened, for all I know.

But the particulars aren’t as important as the theme of his talk; “Why I’m No Longer a Republican”.

Gary was of course the proprietor of “Truth Vs. The Machine”, one of the great paleocon GOP blogs of the mid-2000s.  Over the past year or two, he’s left the GOP and become a Libertarian; at times, he’s even described himself as an “Anarcho-Libertarian”, one of the small crowd of Libertarians who believe that the only good government is a non-existent government.

And, I suspect, he’s going to describe the genesis of his disenchantment with the GOP, and his eventual move into the Libertarian sphere of things.

I’m sure it’ll be worth attending.  Although I’d probably get carded and 86ed.

But for the benefit of those YRs that might be interested, I thought I’d describe a full circle.  Because where Gary is now, I was, close to 20 years ago.  The details were different, but the disenchantment was the same.  As to the final results?  Well, we won’t know that for quite a while.

Underwhelmed:  I’ve told the story on this blog, and on my show, many times; in 1994, disgusted with Republican support for the 1994 Crime Bill (the last great successful push for gun control in this country), I quit and joined the Libertarians.

I called myself a Libertarian with a big L for four years.  I ran for State Treasurer, and won a moral victory in the 1998 election; my only platform plank was to abolish the office of State Treasurer.  That election, the people of Minnesota voted in a Constitutional initiative to abolish the office, proving they didn’t need pols to do their abolishing for them – and you can’t get more Libertarian than that).

And then I left.  There were really two reasons.

Screaming Into The Void:  If a Libertarian proposes a policy in the woods, and nobody hears them, do they really exist?

Judging by how American government has morphed over the past two decades, the answer is obviously “no”.

I left the Libertarian Party because it’s a party of great, brilliant ideas, declaimed with authority to rooms full of people who vigorously agree, and who remain magnificently above the fray, neither having to try to implement any of those ideas as policy nor, in many cases, claiming to want to try.  To some, the fact that politics is about compromise – battling to a consensus with people who disagree with you – is an invitation to perdition; one might need to compromise ones’ core principles!

So while they think their big thoughts in their salon full of other big thinkers, the non-Libertarian do-ers, unworried about sullying their principles because “getting power for ourselves” was their guiding principle, would be out on the street actually convincing the unconvinced to give them more of it.

And the more I tried to discuss this, the more I realized that while Libertarians paid lip service to the idea of actually winning elections and affecting policy, to way too many Libertarians the goal seemed to be able to say “I told you so” to the rest of society as it slowly turned away from the light.

And that struck me as completely pointless.

So I thought “where can I go where I can work on pushing more Liberty into actual policy that affects real people?”  I went back to the GOP more or less by default; I figured it was a more hospitable party to the idea of “liberty” (and I was right – there is not and can never be a Tea Party, or any Pauls, Rand or Ron, in the Democrat Party).

Quixotic?  Sure.  No moreso than trying to change society from within an echo chamber, though.

Reality Bites:  The other reason?  Libertarians – collectively and singly – are right about just about everything.  Freedom is better.  Government largely is the worst possible solution to every issue.  Decentralized is better than centralized.  Markets are better than regulations.

But there are threeissues about which Libertarians – individually, rather than as a Party – are dead wrong:

  • People are social
  • Human nature is not a construct.
  • Evil exists.

The classic Ayn-Randian Libertrian vision – and to some extent, our founding fathers had it as well – is that society is a mass of autonomous, disconnected equals, whose fate is governed entirely by their own merits and talent in navigating The Market. 

But humans are social animals.  We gather instinctively into groups – marriages, families, clans, tribes, villages, congregations, religions.  Some of them are voluntary, some aren’t.  All of them have rules.  Those rules sometimes take the form of “laws”, and laws are by their nature enforced by something, whether it’s Don Knotts or Catholic Guilt or a SWAT team. 

Of course, those rules – “laws” – exist for a bunch of reasons, the most useful and justifiable of which trace back to our evolutionary imperative to make sure our next generation grows up healthy and able to take care of us and able to raise yet another generation.  Rules like “if you have a kid, take care of it, dont’ run off, don’t kill it”.  Then ” don’t kill other peoples’ kids”.  Then “Don’t kill the people that take care of those kids”.  Then “don’t steal the means by which people feed and care for the next generation – food, land, property, means of production”.   And finally, “don’t go taking the land and killing the people that are the who and where our next generation gets raised”. 

Put another way – thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, cheat, covet other peoples’ stuff or piddle on whatever order we do have. 

And in a nearly perfect world, those rules have to be arrived at by consensus – so we, the people, end up with the bare minimum of “government by consent of the governed”, meaning me.  I want my government to be my employee, not my self-appointed master.

And I want that government to exist for, and deal with, a strictly limited list of things; enforce our contracts, impart consequences on those who do violate the bare minimum of rules we do have (mostly related to using force and violence against others)…

…but, most importantly, when I find my property crawling with Methodists with guns and bombs and knives, to respond with snipers and paratroopers and tanks, to drive the Methodists from all of our property as we sing “Constitutional Capitalist Collective, F**k Yeah!”, and “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the Strictly Limited Government way…”.

Those are really the only three reasons why anyone should have to interact with anyone else on a non-social basis.  And as it happens, they are the only three that matter…

…and are the ones on which libertarian purists are the  most lost in the philosophical clouds.

So that’s why I’m no longer a Libertarian.

I’m a libertarian-conservative who votes to prevent as much damage to liberty as possible, election by election.

To some, the distinction is meaningless.  To others, it’s meaninglessly precise.  Either way, that’s me, and that’s why.

Mitch Like Me

“Are you that Mitch Berg?”

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I looked in the Minneapolis phonebook. I counted seven Mitchell Bergs. To the best of my knowledge, I was number eight.

I didn’t think about it much, again, until probably the early 1990s, when I was trying to make a living in the IT business. During the five years I was a technical writer, and a few more times when I switched to user experience, I’d go to interviews, and be asked “are you the Mitch Berg that used to work at Control Data”?

Apparently, there is a Mitch Berg in the IT business – or was, anyway.  He is at least a few years older than me, and more of a programmer than an analyst/designer. But a Mitch Berg nonetheless.

And though over the years I’ve met all sorts of people who had met the other Mitch Berg, we’ve never met, nor have I actually met anyone who has but we met the other Mitch Berg. At least, not the Control Data Mitch Berg.

Of course, about the time I was getting into my career as a user experience guy, I got a lot more of the “Are you Mitch Berger, the Vikings punter?” But I haven’t had that one in a few years.

Of course, a year or two ago a number of Twin Cities liberal bloggers and other such bilge hit their pointy little knees every night praying that I was the Mitch Berg, City Councilman of some eastern border town along the St. Croix River, who had apparently resigned under some kind of fire. Because in the narrow, gray, lumpen, claustrophobic public restroom of the Lefty blogger “mind”, a juicy “gotcha” is really the highest joy one can aspire to. But no such luck – Not only have II never been elected to any office, I will never run for one.

And now, I’m told the circle was turning; a colleague of mine knows of a family with a young fellow named – you guessed it, Mitch Berg. I think he may have just graduated from high school, or is at least in that general age bracket.

And I can only hope he goes into IT, and has 10 or 15 years of being mistaken for me.

Or that other Mitch Berg.

Or that other other Mitch Berg.


UPDATE:  The initial draft of this story was written entirely using my phone’s “Voice to Text” feature. As, indeed, some of you noticed.

But my mental reminder to “edit the post before  you publish it” apparently didn’t sink in. 

And it showed. 

(There is no “Natalie Berg” – that I know of…)

Happy Anniversary!

Who used to look like an extra from “Gangs of New York”, and married way, way up twenty years ago today?

Why, that’d be my friend and long-time radio colleague Ed Morrissey and his wife Marcia, that’s who!

Congrats to the Morrisseys, and may they have many, many more anniversaries!

Everyone: Get Off My Side

I bike.

I’m waiting with bated breath for the “out the door” temperature to be 33 or above, soon, so I can start biking to work again.  I’ve missed it terribly (and didn’t get to do nearly enough last season).    It just plain makes me feel good.

Of course, as I pointed out a few years back when I was interviewed in the Utne Reader, it’s really not a political thing for me.  It’s just one of few forms of regular exercise that don’t bore me stiff.

Unfortunately, both left and right have opted to politicize biking.   Smart conservatives attack the political cronyism, payoffs, and mindless noodling with urban geography that Big Bike is trying to wreak on cities like the Twins.  Not-so-bright conservatives attack people who ride bikes because they ride bikes.

But for every conservative chowderhead cyclophobe, there’s a small cloud of two-wheeled human smugginess that proves the theory.

John Gilmore noted the uproar of a biker, Marcus Nalls of Minneaopolis.  Or as the “biking community” knew him, a guy on a bike assassinated by a car:

WCCO-TV had a fascinating online report about the “memorial” which focused on Nalls’ means of transport much more than the actual human being. “More than 200 riders made their way from Loring Park to the sidewalk along Franklin [where Nalls died]. There, in a solemn procession, they walked their bikes past the “ghost bike,” which is a memorial bicycle that’s painted white.”

All cults need icons and what better, more effective icon than one associated with death? A ghost bike? Was this some sort of sick joke? No indeed, as I found out to my amazement. Such sorts of “remembrances” take place throughout the country when a biker dies. There’s even a disconcerting website: http://ghostbikes.org/

Naturally, what is really going on is the narcissism of the biking community being put on prominent display for the public to see but mostly for themselves. One white bike after another: no individual, just the hope that bikers still living won’t die in a similar fashion. White bikes are the crucifixes for the secular, “spiritual but not religious” types in our midst. The dislocation of religion into environmentalism and Portlandia lifestyles is relentless.

Gilmore mentions Portlandia.

That’s one of the funniest things about that series; knowing that grimly serious people live out the parody every day.


I was about to head to work this morning when I remembered; it’s February 5. 

My blog’s anniversary.

I’ve been doing this for (counts fingers, removes shoe, continues counting) 12 years now. 

And I can honestly say two things:

  • My motivations haven’t changed a whole lot since I started writing this blog.  I’m shouting into the void – political, existential, social, whatever – more or less for the joy I feel just making the noise.  When I started Shot In The Dark, I was a guy with a couple of kids and a job and a big gaping hole in my life.  My kids are grown – sort of – and the big gaping hole has been filled with a big group of friends, crusades, and just a lot of purpose that I was searching for around this time 12 years ago.  But underneath it all, there’s the sense that “I see things that need to be said.  If I don’t say ‘em, who will?”   And I just plain enjoy it.
  • The rewards, then as now, are all internal.  Which is good, since this blog has never made more than enough to pay for its hosting, really – and that’s more than I ever expected out of it.  I write because I love to write. I started this blog before I knew anyone else in the Twin Cities was doing it, to say nothing of there being an audience.  I get hundreds of readers a day; if I got half a dozen, I’d still love doing it.

I’m a conservative talking politics in a liberal metro area, so I’ve ruffled a feather or two – mostly the feathers of good people who can handle a little discussion.  I’ve made a few enemies – without exception, stunted, risible little people who don’t have the balls to face me in a face-to-face discussion, and whom I laugh about until I switch back to ignoring them.

Because they are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the friends I’ve made; other bloggers, readers, the other NARN guys and all the listeners that the show brought into my life, and all of the many, many people that all of this writing has brought me into contact with on the twelve-year journey that this blog has led me onto.

So anyway – thanks, everyone!

Grandma Bea

Yesterday would be the 110th birthday of my grandmother, Beatrice Berg.

I need to get a little clearer on some of my family’s lore – my immediate family has always been terrible at passing its stories down.  Near as I can tell, she was the older daughter of a Norwegian immigrant farmer and immigrant from Sør-Trøndelag, Berndt Græsli (anglicized to Gresley), born not far from Thief River Falls, MN.  She grew up in or near Middle River.

When she was in her late teens (as I recall the story) she took up with a couple of her aunts – who were, according to the accounts I’ve heard, the sort of thing that they’d write Lifetime movies about today; a couple of flinty, hard-bitten businesswomen who were in the business of starting photography studios around northern Minnesota.  Grandma worked at a few of these studios, learning the trade.

It’s there that Grandma Bea did something that, likely, most of you are acquinted with.  She was working at the studio of Eric Enstrom in the small northern Minnesota town of Bovey, when…

…well, I’ve never heard the definitive story; some of it, I got from my parents; others, from a Jamestown Sun piece from the 1970′s that I still remember.  The stories include various elements from the following narrative, all of which I’ll relate just for simplicity’s sake.  One day she met an old guy in a mainstreet cafe, Charles Wilden, a travelling salesman namedwith a striking visage, whom she introduced to Enstrom.  And then helped dress the set and assisted with the photo shoot, and helped do some of the hand-coloring of the print afterward (along with Enstrom’s daughter – like I said, the story gets complicated).

Whatever the facts were – and most of them certainly were true – the end result is upper-midwestern art history:

“Grace”, by Eric Enstrom

Nearly every dining room in the Upper Midwest seems to have a copy of “Grace” hanging on the wall – or so it seemed when I was a kid. It’s the Minnesota State Photograph.

Grandma went on to work at a slew of photography studios.  At one of them, she met my grandfather, Oscar.  They got married, had Dad…

…and then Oscar died.  Grandma ran the studio herself for the next twenty-odd years.

For all the yapping about “strong women” from feminists, I don’t suspect many of them could have carried my Grandmother’s purse.