Category Archives: Life

Where I Admit that I’m Bored

All the children who are old enough to be out of the house are out of the house now, back where they belong.

The remaining child who likes to sequester herself in room is back where she belongs.

The old fat guy who goes to work every morning is back where he belongs.

Mrs S is back in yoga, back getting mani-pedis. She has not started the school nursing gig yet, so she’s not quite back where she belongs, but for the sake of argument we’ll call her good.

Back to morning darkness in my world, I’m not so fond of the “dark” season to be honest. Which, when you get up at 5:00 is longer than the “light” season. Once consolation is that I’m not on the bus anymore, so I don’t have pitch black mornings climbing up the hill to the bus stop where I get to wait in the dark at 0 degrees. On the other hand not walking up to the bus stop in the morning means I’ve adopted a particularly sedentary lifestyle that doesn’t lend itself to good health and well-being.

I’m told by Mrs S that I do have a gym membership at my disposal. I’ve been there twice in the year or so I’ve owned it, I went weeks one and two. I didn’t like it. I don’t like going to gym, I don’t like exercising and I don’t like the sweaty crowds there. I don’t like discussions of health and wellness.

Anyway, we’re getting back to the normal routine around here.

Basically we’re getting back into the mundane, which after a summer of foreign travel, front row seats to world headlines and an aborted landing at MSP… feels a tish anti-climactic.

Last night I got home from work, note on the table from Mrs S: SAS Yoda Cl55 Home @7. Which the daughter translated for me: 5:45 yoga class, be home around 7:00.

House was clean, there were no dishes laying around and the place looked like it had been recently vacuumed. The TV was off, first time in 3 months I’ve come home to that little pleasure. Things I had left in places when I left in the morning were still in those places. Don’t mind that so much.

I unceremoniously cooked up the eggplant stirfry thing I had been planning, had a quiet meal with the daughter and did the crossword while she did the dishes. And then….

Well, I publically announced that I was “bored”.

Yeah, bored. As in not much to do. There’s a couple things on my todo list around the house. I’m about to enter the dues season at the Lodge, my annual reconciling of everyone’s dues payments from the previous year, then the writing of the letters, envelope stuffing, hand stamping and mailing, it’s about 200 or so letters, 400 hundred by the time I get them all back and resend out the dues cards… A more proactive guy would have started that process by starting to work on the spreadsheet to figure who owes what so I can invoice accurately. I’m not quite in the mood for that stuff yet. I usually wait until after Labor Day.

Lawn didn’t need mowing, fish tank needed cleaning and I managed to do that.

Basically we’re dropping back into the “normal mode” around the casa; work, eat and hope for good health.

Next week I have a short trip to Boston on Monday. In and out basically. I don’t know exactly why, but Boston seems to be sort of difficult to get to from the Twin Cities. My flights are routed through Atlanta and Chicago. Seems counter-intuitive.

Thursday the State Fair kicks off here. We didn’t go last year, first time we didn’t go since we moved here in 1995. Going to the State Fair, or not going as the case may be, is a bit like a drug habit, you have to break it once to see that life can go on if you don’t make out to the Great Minnesota Get Together. I was hoping for a repeat this year, but the Daughter seems hell bent on going so I’m sure we’ll make it out there.

After the State Fair, another trip to California, then we’re into the Jewish Holidays.

I think the Buddhists have it right when it comes to prayer wheels and the idea life is a series of turning wheels. Same seasons, different years,

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Weekend Update

As my week in California went on I found myself getting more and more obsessed about spending time at the lake. Called the daughter from Salt Lake City where I had a little layover to set expectations that as soon as I rolled off the plane, I’d head home to pick her up and we’d be off to cabin. Called Mrs S, who was in Alabama this week getting the kid moved into his apartment, to let her know that she’d need to make arrangements to find a ride home from the airport on Saturday afternoon. Not coming back to pick her up.

I don’t get a lot of one on one time with the daughter. She’s likes to hang out in room, which from my own informal surveys I’ve learned is not all that uncommon among the teen age ranks. She like a trip to the mall for her recreational needs, something I would rather not do. Not do with extreme prejudice mind you. She’s not a big fan of going to the lake, especially when it’s just with me. But she didn’t protest too much and I didn’t make too much of a fuss about it so someway somehow she decided to come with no protest. Maybe it was the pleading in my voice that did it I don’t know. But it worked out.

Actually it was better than that. I rolled off the plane about 6:30.

Not before a little drama, we were literally about a second from touching down, for those of you local folkses the place was coming in over Nokomis, we had crossed Cedar and were on final final when the pilot hit the gas, pulled up and did a climbing bank turn over the airport. Full on “Ghost Rider the Pattern is Full” sort of deal. Apparently there was traffic on the runway. My thought at the time was the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”. Quite frankly this summer has been a little more interesting than I’d like on many many fronts. Boring would be good for a while.

Anyway, I rolled off, picked up the car and was in the drive way by 7:00. She was ready to go. Not only that but she had cleaned the entire house, top to bottom as well. It was completely spotless. We’re going to have leave her home alone more often I think. Had it been the boys….

I’ll stay positive.

We left the house about 7:30, I had a couple things to do online for work, needed to sit for just a second anyway. After a stop at the grocery store for provisions we made it to the cabin around 10:00pm.

10:00 is a late arrival for us. This time of year it’s completely dark, darkness amplified by the country, no street lights and no neighbors apparently. There was no moon yet, I think the half-moon rose about 11:00 or so, and not a cloud in the sky. As we pulled in and I got out of the car the sky was absolutely spectacular. The Milky Way was brilliant, arching over the trees, almost bright enough to cast a shadow. It was sky we don’t see much in the city, and one that never takes my breath away. No wonder the ancients were so enamoured with the stars and the planets. I don’t know, a really brilliant starry night like that really makes me think about the vastness of creation. Every other waking minute my scale of existence is up to the next tree or next bend in the road. Even in plane it’s a few thousands miles maybe? To the horizon or so.. but when I’m looking up at a 180 degree canopy of heavenly bodies millions whose light is just reaching my eyes after travelling for hundreds and millions of years across the vast emptiness of space… Puts things in perspective.

And also made the entire days travel worthwhile.

Even the daughter was impressed, with a bit of more modern interpretation. She has a astronomy app on her iPad that is really cool. You hold the thing up to the sky and through it’s witchcraft or whatever it mirrors what you’re looking at, only with planets and constellations identified. Wish I’d of had that when I was growing up and my interest in astronomy was just getting started. Might have stuck with it longer than the month or so back in the 70’s that Comet Kohoutek was visible from my back yard. My Dad bought be a 60 power telescope for the affair. 60 or 120X can’t remember. Most I ever saw was the Rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s bands and the ice cap on Mars. And a fuzzy spot where the Orion Nebula was supposed to be. As I write this I’m finding myself interested in getting back into the hobby.

Which would not go over well at home I’m over capacity in hobbies and interests if you ask Mrs S and I’m not going too.

Saturday we had a really great day together, except for her 6 hour nap. Shakshouka for breakfast. Very good stuff. My good friend Ken from Little Blake Lake dropped over after attending our lake owners meetings. I had intended to go, sort of, but I didn’t remember until breakfast was already in progress, so next time. Maybe. Good news from Ken, the whole dam thing is well on it’s way to being resolved and it turns out it’s only going to cost me about $500.00. BTW the official answer to how many houses there are on the lake is 198. I don’t know that I’ve ever counted that high without help so I’m glad someone told me.

One thing I did not do- fish. The summer of boat problems continues. I got word from the repair shop that they hadn’t gotten around to fixing the fishing boat yet. A condition that leaves me a little less than satisfied to be honest. We won’t be up here next weekend and the following weekend is Labor Day.. so maybe I should just winterize it now and call it a season. Which is quite lame on many fronts.

The weather was a little dodgy over the weekend, we had some rain which meant we got to participate in another of my favorite cabin pass times- MOVIES.

We had a rare double home run in the movie department. Two flicks I rated at 5 stars. The Butler with Forest Whitaker and Owl and the Sparrow with no one you’ve ever heard of. The Butler was a historical fiction piece loosely based on the life of White House Eugene Allen. In the movie version Whitakers character serves 8 presidents. The movie contrasts the life of an African American serving the President to real events of the Civil Rights movement. The Butler is witness to the decision making process but can offer no input or guidance as due to his role behind the scenes. In the meantime his own son becomes deeply involved as a freedom rider, black panther and so forth.. anyway, I thought it was a great movie.

Owl and Sparrow… that’s a Vietnamese movie with English subtitles. Not sure how I came across it on Netflix.. have to say it’s my sleeper of the year, and this year I’ve seen a bunch of sleepers. The daughter was pretty reluctant to see it, had to be begged a bit actually. But afterwards, “That’s my new all-time favorite movie. It was really good. One of those happy endings sorts of movies that us all a little misty eyed.

And that was it for the lake. Nice quiet weekend up here. Really, there was hardly a soul around the lake all weekend, I think I saw about two boats all weekend long. The Daughter and I and had a chance to just hang out and be together. Which, as the ad says, is priceless.

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Greetings From The Road

Back on the road again, this time Redlands California.

For those of youse in MN who aren’t familiar with the geography of California, Redlands is in Southern California, in the Inland Empire, San Bernadino County. Growing up in Northern California I’ve spent most of my life harboring parochial prejudices about Southern California. If you’re from Northern California the prevailing attitude is to think of the entire southern third of state as water stealing, money grubbing USC fans. With the exception of San Diego and Palm Springs, places Nortes like to go occasionally the rest of the SC is one big peh.

And the Inland Empire, the area east of Los Angeles out the desert and scrub.. double plus peh.

Said the guy from Stockton, a town that for years has been on every list published about the worst places to live in the United States.

Driving from the Ontario Intl Airport to Redlands I passed towns that were legendary to me anyway, back in the day. Legendary because they had a reputation for being really “tough” towns. Towns like Riverside and, shudder here, Rialto.

Again said the guy from the Stockton,a town that would compete with Atlanta GA for the nation’s highest murder rate per capita when I was in high school. A title I’m pretty sure they still hold.

Frankly Ontario proper and the area around the airport is not a particularly attractive place to fly into. With the exception of the surrounding mountains, it’s flat and from air anyway, square miles of dusty gridded plots of land occasionally dissected by dry riverbeds with concrete walls. And all of them look like they’re hosting warehouses or factories of some kind.

Redlands on the other hand seems to be a little oasis in this part of the world. Seems that everywhere I travel I ask myself “could I live here?” Last couple weeks it was Israel, answer Yes. Before that it was Nashville TN- Yes, St Louis MO- No, Stockton CA… Yes, but I’d be single. I think Redlands is a yes. I’m pretty enamored with the palm trees lining some of the older streets. There’s a nice historic looking neighborhood, a neat downtown and some decent places to eat. They’ve done a good job here preserving some of the citrus orchards that built the area back in the day. The area has a really nice old school Southern California vibe. This is a huge epiphany for me, a Northern Californian, to admit there’s place in Southern California, why in the LA metro area where I could live.

I believe these feelings are coming from a sense of familiarity around this place. It has a bit of the same feel as the good parts of Stockton. People look the same, the flora is pretty close, a few more orange trees here, climate is the same. It was 92 degrees yesterday, but it was a most benign 92 degrees. There’s a lot of truth in the adage that it’s a “dry heat”. It is and it makes a difference. Here you could say 92 feels like 82. In Minnesota 92 feels like 115.

Just my reflections, not moving here, A) I’m too old to move. All of our friends live in Minnesota and if we came here Mrs S and would be alone with each other. Not good. Matter of fact that’s the case anywhere we go which is why I’ve been answering the question “Where do you think you’re going to retire” with my current address should I live that long. Not guarantee. The other issue is once you leave California you cash out of a housing market that I don’t think we can ever get back into. It’s frightfully expensive.

BTW there’s an Apple Valley CA here, just over the hill from Redlands. Apple Valley CA and Apple Valley MN have two things in common that I can tell, neither are in a valley and neither have any tie to actual apples. However Apple Valley CA high desert, dry dusty hot desert. About a different from Apple Valley MN as you can get. Apple Valley CA- NO.

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Blake Lake Report- The End of Summer

There’s metrological summer, and calendar summer, which by that measurement we got about five or six more weeks left. And then there’s the summer that really counts, academic summer, school year kickoff summer.

By that calendar we’re in the last weekend of the season. Next Tuesday Mrs S and the Deuce, aka Kid #2, aka Red, pack up and head sought to Alabama for year #3 at Auburn. Now technically I’m supposed to be all weepy and sad by the thought sending the lad so far away for another school year, and mourn the end of magic family time, but let’s be slightly honest here, I’m looking forward to slowing the burn rate on Trader Joe’s cookie butter and seeing what other channels are on the tele besides ESPN. Besides I don’t cry about crap like that, I’m a dude. I also think I have some sort of attachment disorder which makes me not get all that emotional when separating from people. BTW, I do cry sort of, just last April I teared up a bit when I hit the “Confirm Purchase” button on $8,000 worth of airlines tickets.

Still a little weepy about that to be honest.

But that’s neither here nor there, end of summer…

Certainly felt autumnal at the lake this weekend. This summer here in the Great Northland has been spectacular for those of us who detest heat and humidity. Highs in the 80’s, low 80’s for that matter, nice cool nights in 60’s, as they say good sleeping weather. Last night I even got up and turned off the fan in the bedroom, something not done in August ever in my memory. The lake is pretty clear, another weird phenomenon. I guess must have something to do with colder than usual water? Didn’t get the chance for the algae to steep correctly and turn the lake its typical green? Maybe we’re getting past the curly leaf pond weed issue? Low water issues help? I have no idea, maybe we’ll learn something at the semi-annual lake owner’s association meeting next weekend. Not that I’m going, but you know, maybe someone can tell me something.

What’s that you ask? Not going? Well, it would be unpatriotic of me to suggest that I don’t support democracy but I’ve come to realize that it’s true, I don’t. I support Republicanism, in other words pick other people go sit and debate shit and vote on my behalf. The Lake Association Meetings are a wee bit too low level democracy for my taste or patience. Last one I went too we had a 30 minute discussion that bordered on debate about what to name the new lake weed harvester. Between alternating feelings of anger that “Wacker” wasn’t even being considered and thoughts of suicide being a legitimate way to get out of the time suck I made a pact with myself to never go back. BTW, the name “Harvey” was selected after much deliberation confirming to me anyway that there is a place for dictators in government, they are efficient.

We do have a matter of interest at hand this time around, what are we doing about the dam. The lakes little head dam washed out last winter and now the lake is about two feet lower than it should be/used to be. Personally I’d like to see the water level go up a bit because it’s really hard to get my pontoon unmoored from the dock with my elegant clip on and knot system I took 11 years developing. I could add a wee bit of rope to the moorings but that would require that I retie some really cool knots and that would take more effort that I want to exert against the problem. Better to buy a $400K dam and raise the water, at least from my perspective.

You know what a number like $400K does to a guy? Makes him start counting all the houses on the lake that’s what. There’s a lot of houses on this lake and I’ve made every attempt to count um up, but I seem to run out of numbers and gas about 2/3 of the way up my shoreline. While I know that the nice thing about numbers I’m told, is that there is always more of them, I’m doing in my mind’s eye instead of the boat because A) this is the summer of boat problems and B) Every time I reach for my beverage someone starts talking to me and I lose track of where I am. All I’m trying to do is figure out what my portion of the $400K is going to be, cause I think it’s going to be a lot. More than a knot book anyways.

Since this is the year of Boat Trouble I haven’t really been on out the drink this year. We attempted a pontoon ride last night, the motor died about 20′ feet after we cast off the dock. I think it’s a bad gas problem but I’m not sure. We’ve had that stupid motor looked at every year since we bought the thing in 2010 and it’s still not all that reliable. Sometime saving money on old shit isn’t always worth it. The motor BTW she’s a 75, not horsepower, year built. Again.. might be part of the problem.

Damned thing about not having the boat available for a cruise is it my last excuse for the evening to take a walk with Mrs S was negated. She likes to walk up to the place where the dam used to be and will be again in the evenings to get something that she calls “exercise”. Its’ about 1.5 miles each way, through forest, past swamps and so forth. I’m not opposed to walking for walking’s sake per se, I just don’t like deerflies and once you get up a few hundred yards and under the tree canopy… They like me because I’m bald. Good thing is they’re kinda loud and not very agile so swatting them the before they bite is fairly easy. The bad news is if once gets though this isn’t the mosquito’s gentle proboscis slipping into your skin unnoticed, these bitches bite off a chuck of flesh and it hurts like sunofabitch. And they seem to only go after me and my good buddy Giggs, the corgi.

Not unlike a Hamas rocket in that way, easy to swat you just can’t let any get through.

Another sign of a more profound autumn and winter, poor Giggs. He’s starting show his age these days, which makes me kinda sad to see. He’s always up for a walk up to the dam, but these days he’s not as interested in walking back. Which he communicates to me suddenly plopping down on the road refusing to move. Makes for a long stroll. I could carry him but he weighs about 25 lbs. and stinks like rotten lake water after spending all afternoon trying to herd waves on the shoreline. So we did a half-walk, half-drag but we made it back just time for MRs S and I to fall asleep on the sofa while the kids watched reruns on over the air TV. These are the memories they’ll have when they get older and have their own families. Mom and Dad passed out after walking. Sweet.

Today the agenda involves going after the tits high weeds that have sprung up around here in the month since were here last. I need to get a chainsaw attachment for my weedwacker me things. We have some new volunteer trees springing up and I can’t find the noticed some poison ivy coming up along the side of the house. Given Mrs S’s new sensitivity to that stuff, she spent the first half of the summer looking like a leper, I should do something about it. And I will, right after I get done with whatever it I do here when I’m trying to look like I’m doing something but really not.

I’m going to miss summer I think.

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Return to the Mundane

Been back in the Great White North for a week now. At the moment the snow and ice are hiding under a mountain of green leaves and rich verdant grass. Not to fear however, we’re less than 5 weeks from the PSS (possible snow season) and Christmas is only 140 days or so away. In my self-proclaimed role of being the “cold shower of reality” I’m looking at the landscape, specifically my yard and the lush landscape and towering trees and thinking “There’s a lotta raking coming in October”. Negative? Hardly call it ‘real’ baby and it’s how I roll. The bad news is all the little free laborers I made with Mrs S over the years have aged out which means guess who’s gonna be on the wrong side some very manual yard tools? The old fat guy that’s who.

Too late to make new ones too… damn it. 

Well, I’m taking me the grasshopper approach and choosing not to think about such things until due time. Actually if I can be strong and not look out my back window or allow myself to influenced by the death stares and innuendo loaded comments from Mrs S come fall, I can probably choose not to think about raking or yard care until two or three after due time comes, thereby saving me a few weekends of hated yard work. In the perfect world I rake exactly once. Well twice, once at home and once at the lake. The dream scenario, which I could be tempted to trade a lot of very meaningful things for; kids, sacrificial beasts, my eternal soul… In that world the annual leaf drop would be followed by a sustained and violent wind storm which would clear out all the leaves at the lake, leaving my conscious clear from lake work altogether. 

One can hope.

I am quite glad to be back at the office to be honest, nice to think about some constructive things for change, as opposed to geopolitics and John Kerry. That was starting to give me a serious headache. Now I can focus on problem solving and working on PowerPoints. Fun stuff, in the most liberal application of the word. 

I did have a very interesting albeit very brief PSTD experience yesterday. Actually it was a PTSD experience but I got the order of the letters wrong at dinner last night and my son, who is cursed with my signature gifts of biting sarcasm and a rapier quick wit remarked “You caught an STD in Israel?” That would be have been quite a “trick” considering I was travelling with five people the entire time. Something for next time. 

Well done Red.

No I meant PTSD as in post-traumatic stress disorder. Was walking out of a restaurant on Grand Ave in St. Paul after lunch with the boss, and it being the first Wednesday of the month, Minnesota does its monthly storm siren drill. I think we were just about right under a siren at precisely 1:00 when they lit the thing up. About shat myself as I scanned the sky for incoming rockets from Bloomington. Seriously had a little moment there of “what the hell”.

Little embarrassed to be crouched on the ground hands over head with the boss asking “what are you doing?”  “Looking for my contact” “But you wear glasses”. See what happened there, ran rings around my whitish lie logically that’s how intellectually disarmed I was.

Ok I wasn’t on the ground but I seriously did the Urban Israeli version of rocket drill- scan the sky while reaching for the smart phone to see if could film the event and be famous on YouTube. had to shake it off a bit. 

Mrs S and I observed 29 years martial um.. something on Monday. Cards were exchanged along with handshakes and congratulations. As she said “29 years.. I’d probably be out by know if I had done what I was thinking about doing back when we first got married.” I did love her card, could be the best card I’ve ever received EVER. Picture of nice elderly couple (really elderly, not neo-elderly like us) sitting on a bench “After many years of marriage Doris and Leo reveal the secret to a long-lasting relationhip” and you open the card the punch line is “He’s my bitch”.

We were definitely meant to be together.

 

This weekend we’re going to spend some time in Wisconsin. I found a bill for lawn mowing at a property I own over there that we’d forgotten about, so I feel like we should make an appearance. Good thing the place is paid for, at least the per capita fee for nights up there are down to the hundreds instead of thousands.

Monday I’m back on plane and headed to Los Angeles for a week of training and development. Normally I would be sort of excited to go, at the moment I’m still in nesting mode and the thought of four nights stuck in hotel is something less than appealing to me.

While I’m gone Mrs S and Red pack the kid’s new Mini-Cooper and head south to the Great State of Alabama for the 2014-2015 school year. She’s headed south, I’m headed west and as we talked about it over dinner the realization came on us that we have a daughter too. Somewhere in the discussions we’d forgotten to account for her care and feeding while both of us are gone. Just one small reason why there’s still an empty spot on the wall where the “Parents of the Year” plaque is supposed to go…

I going to call around today but I’m afraid all the KiddieKennels are full due to vacations and so forth.

Then I remembered she’s 17, just one year shy of emancipation, maybe we could free her early, have her take care of herself for a couple days….

With the boys thoughts like that would most certainly lead to statements like “seemed like a good idea at the time”.  Leaving boys home alone for a few days have a high probability of our returning to a smoking foundation and stack of citations for assorted city code violations, mostly with words no parent wants to see like “minor”, “possession”,  “consent” and probably an “indecent” and “gross misdemeanor” or two. But girls are different, at least ours is. I think if I just locked the doors, put out a 50lb bag of KidChow on the kitchen floor and told the dog not to bite her that she’d be Ok.

Shit.. the dog. Forgot about the dog. Now that’s a real problem, I’ve used up all of my good neighbor points the last two weeks asking the world’s greatest neighbors to check in on him and feed him while we were gone. No simple task given that the dog is a serious pain the ass.

So that’s the worst of my problems at the moment. Glad to be home.

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Hamas couldn’t bring us down, but US Air just might have.

The dreaded norovirus has been making it’s way through the family. Started with Eric the evening after we arrived. Friday night it was my turn. This morning Mrs S was looking a little peaked.

It was a dreadful 12 hours or so, really dreadful.

Somewhere in violence of retching and purging I pulled some muscles in my back. Misery compounded. My tickets to see Manchester City vs. Olymipiakos with my son, donated to Mrs S, who I assure you did not appreciate the gesture.

To day I was a lot better thank goodness, except for the back pain.

I’m in the process of uploading all 1000 pictures from our trip to Israel on Flickr. You can check them out here.

Still working on titles and catalogues.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsankary/

 

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    Vote for Minnesota Prairie Roots as the best blog in southern Minnesota

    Sank:

    Well worth the vote.

    Originally posted on Minnesota Prairie Roots:

    southern minnesota scene best of logoTHE NOMINATIONS ARE IN, dear readers, for the “Best of Southern Minnesota 2014,” sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine Southern Minnesota Scene.

    And, ta-da, Minnesota Prairie Roots/Audrey Kletscher Helbling is among nominees for best blog/blogger, along with Dennis Vogen and Anhedonic Headphones/Kevin Krein.

    I am honored. Truly. To those of you who nominated me, thank you.

    Now, you have one month, until 11:59 p.m. September 1, to vote.

    Click here to cast your ballot for Minnesota Prairie Roots and nominations in more than 150 other categories of “best ofs” in southern Minnesota. You need only register your name and email (there’s a promise not to sell your information).

    You will find the blog/blogger ballot in the miscellaneous category, near the bottom of the page.

    If you are reading this post, you likely are already among the nearly 1,000 Minnesota Prairie Roots subscribers. You know that I write…

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    Time Shift and Diet Changes

    Jet lag…

    I was told if I being adjusting to a new time zone a week in advance, avoid red meat, increase my intake of water, take melatonin and bury a dead cat on hill at midnight of a full moon, I could avoid jet lag all together. 

    This has not proven to be the case. Not that I did any of the above, seemed tedious… but last night I literally fought my circadian rhythm tooth and nail to keep myself from going to be at 2:00 in the afternoon. And this morning? Up a 3:00 am. I managed to fall back to sleep after an hour of mindless computer time, just in time for the 5:00 am alarm. Through out the day I felt pretty good. Until about 7:00 pm. Then.. i found myself ready for bed again. Fighting the droop eyelids and hallucinating whilst doing the mundane TV watching. 

    I hallucinated that I was snoozing on a sofa in room with a tile floor. In Israel we never once saw a carpet, everything is tile. Had to put my foot down on the ground to make sure I knew where I was. 

    I used to dream about semi-naked women, now I’m dreaming about naked floors. Sucks to get old. 

    The middle kid had the double whammy of jet lag and food poisoning. Or a stomach virus, I have’t gotten close enough to him to find out which. To busy burning everything he’s touched or walked on, including the carpet. I do NOT need to the double sluice box at this time in my life, although the accompanying weigh loss is interesting to me. 

    I did manage to lose about 10 lbs in Israel. First vacationer in history who can make that claim. Well, take that back, my cousin Bill who was there a month ago also lost a ton of weight. 

    Why? I’m thinking it’s because for two weeks i didn’t eat 1 (one) (uno) (echad) morsel of processed anything! No fake cookies, no breakfast toasties, nada. Has to be it. Walking 5 miles a day helped too. 

    Interesting note- my cousin who has lived in Israel since about 1968 has been eating the Israeli diet of salads at every meal, lots of veggies, very little meat and even then, mostly chicken. Acres of hummus and tons of fresh dairy. On that side of the family to say there’s a penchant for diabetes would be an understatement. Literally everyone, from my grandmother to three of her sons, and of the 5 kids in her generation 4 have diabetes. The only one who doesn’t have it.. yup, it’s her. 

    I might need to take notice in my own diet. Put the family on a healthy fresh made diet. Once they’re all keeping solid foods down that is. 

     

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    Baksheesh Economy

    A fairly substantial fence surrounds the Kibbutz, like every other rural community in Israel. There’s rolling gate that closes every night around 8:00 pm and reopens at 7:00 am. Nowadays residents can open the gate with their cell phones.

    What’s the fence for, I asked. Answer surprised me; Bedouins.

    Bedouins? The dudes in the black tents with the long robes and kifiyas?

    Used be black tents and robes, now it’s Toyota pickups and jeans.

    Apparently they come into the Kibbutz from time to time and steal newborn calves from the dairy farm and occasionally farm equipment. “We have guard dogs, they really don’t like dogs, they’re ‘haram’ for Muslims, but the dogs stopped hanging out at the cow shed a long time ago.” “Where do they hang out now?” “By the kitchen.”

    This is not a first world problem.

    Mickey is a part time police officer. “We caught some a few weeks ago with 11 calves in a Subaru.”

    How do you get 11 calves in a Subaru? Put 4 in the trunk.

    Seriously.. “What’d you do with them?, the Bedouins I mean.”

    “We always let them go.” Apparently they have a code, no one ever gets hurt in a Bedouin heist, they just take the stuff and run. When they’re caught the stolen items are confiscated and the perps are let go.

    I noticed that every time we drive past the big agriculture pumps by the road past the Kibbutz fence there’s a guy camping down there. Tent, fire, dude’s been there the entire time, who is that?

    Bedouin guard. We hire Bedouin guards to watch the pumps and equipment out there. Keep other Bedouins from stealing stuff. “Bedouins will guard you stuff from other Bedouins? How does that work?” “The guys we hire tell their cousins not to steal from here and they gives them a percentage of what we pay, form of baksheeh.” Small bribes or charity.

    So this whole thing is a scam?

    Mark Twain wrote about a visit to the Holy Land in 1869. In it he talked about hiring Arab guards, by law, from the Turkish landlords in order to protect pilgrims from rampaging Bedouins. There were even a battle or two where to guards would vigourasly protect the travelers.

    Twain reported that after the battle and once the group had passed the combatants would sit together and split the proceeds from the guard money and the tips they earned for the bravery in battle.

    All a big scam organized by the local Turk and his folks.

    “We’d be just as safe walking alone” he conjectured.

    Things haven’t changed much it seems.

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    Reflections on the Last Day in Israel

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    5:30 am, our last few hours in Israel.

    All I can say about it is Wow. It’s certainly been a trip and a half. We’ve seen the country at its best and, unfortunately also at its worst. We’ve had the good fortune of having some of the most popular tourist sites in the world almost completely to ourselves. We were active participants in the events here, we like so many people here it the south, had to make 30 second dash to the shelters, and in one heard the explosion of rocket hitting the ground a few hundred meters from where we were hunkered down. We saw the Iron Dome, positioned in the fields around the nearby community of Kiryat Gat.

    And, like many people here we after a few sirens and a few explosions in the distance we become sort of nonchalant about war and our own safety, instead of dashing the 50 meters uphill to the shelters we justified not going because they ever hit anything anyway. Thinking about it, when was the last time I went into the basement for a storm siren in Minnesota? I’m thinking about 1997.

    We were close enough to Gaza that we could hear the shelling from Israel. There was an artillery battery about a mile or so away from us, the frequency and intensity of its low frequency but very substantial booming was our own indicator of the intensity of the fighting in Gaza. We guessed correctly that Israel was sending troops in last Friday by the intensity of our 3:00am wakeup call. And we were new exactly when the ceasefires were in place on Saturday morning, the silence was deafening.

    We did a great deal of our travelling via public transportation. We tool local busses to Jerusalem and trains to Tel Aviv and home from Haifa. That in itself gave us a few into Israeli society that you’re not going to get from an air conditioned tour bus. We travelled to Jerusalem on Sunday mornings for no good reason other than that’s when it worked out. Sunday is the start of the work week in Israel, it’s when kids in the military go back to their bases after weekend leaves with their families. Our bus was the opposite of an “express” bus, we stopped more times that I can count on that trip. At every stop we picked up kids the same ages as mine in their uniforms. At one stop the three kids who got on the bus were kids of Ethiopian immigrants, two boys and a girl. The two boys were religious, they were wearing kippas. The girl was carrying a riot helmet and a baton with her, in addition to her automatic weapon. Also on the bus a few of the Heardi, the ultra-orthodox in their black suits and white shirts with ubiquitous giant black hats. The juxtaposition of these two groups of Jews really struck me.

    It seems more than fitting that our last day of touring was in Tel Aviv. In my past trips here Tel Aviv wasn’t on the itinerary. There’s not a ton of sightseeing in Tel Aviv. It’s a place to go if you want to sit on the beach, go to a mall or experience some great restaurants. Tel Aviv is ground zero of Secular Israel. My cousin kept referring to it as a “free” city. It’s the only place in the country where the grocery stores are open and the busses run on Saturday. It’s the one place in the country where there was a protest last week against the actions in Gaza. When we walked the streets, especially a day after Jerusalem, I was struck by lack of Heradi on the streets. “They aren’t welcome here” was my cousins comment. Tel Aviv is, when there aren’t siren going off, a travel destination for Gay and Lesbians. It’s an open progressive city, it’s outrageously expensive and according to my son, it’s the goal of every young secular Israeli to live there.

    While there we visited Rabin Square and saw the spot where Yitzak Rabin was assassinated. There’s modest memorial at the corner of the City Hall building that the place. As Mickey explained the events of that evening it was painfully obvious that he was deeply affected by them. To set the stage, the square is a city block that has a small pond on one side, a single olive tree in planter in the middle, the rest of paved. At the north end is a raised area and behind that is City Hall. Around the square are the 4 story apartment buildings that sort of define the city.

    To paraphrase;

    We really had the feeling at that time the peace was at hand. The country was very optimistic. We were very close to an agreement with the Palestinians that everyone could sense was going to bring a genuine peace to Israel. Rabin came here to this square to participate in a peace demonstration. Almost the entire country it felt like, was packed into this block. He spoke, and sang a song about peace and really we thought it had arrived. But, (and he pointed to the buildings around the square) up there were the counter protesters, the religious and the right wing. The religious parties were furious with Rabin. There were Rabbi’s leading prayers for his death, it was crazy. But, it’s a free country and anyone can say whatever they want, and they. No one thought much about it.

    After the speech he descended from the platform and went to get into his car. Security was tight they were looking for terrorists, Arab terrorists specifically no one ever thought to look for Jews. And right here a Religious kid, wearing a Kippah, from Bar Ilan University, the Ultra-Orthodox school near here, came behind him and shot him three times in the back.

    After that day Shimon Peres became Prime Minister but he lost the next election and Netanyahu and Likud came to power. The government took a hard right turn, settlements increased, and relations with the Arabs got worse, we really felt collectively that a light was snuffed out that night.

    On the memorial it was supposed to be written that Rabin was killed by “an assassin wearing a kippa”, it was going to be our way (the secular Israeli left) of reminding people that this was not an act of Arab terrorism, this was Jewish terrorism. But, there was a massive outcry from the right and it never happened.

    Then the really profound statement

    Most countries in the development go through some kind of Civil War. There’ some battle, ideological or political for the soul of the country. In Israel we haven’t had that war yet, probably because we too busy fighting to defend ourselves. But as the country has grown in prosperity and strength, it’s my sense that this event is a small battle in that war between the ultraorthodox, the settlers and the far right, and the secular left.

    This a country wrestling with a lot of problems. But a lot of her strengths get lost in the discussion, especially in the international press. This is still a democracy. Everyone in Israel has the right to vote and speak their mind.

    Interestingly on the city buses in Jerusalem there are signs that say “By law anyone is entitled to sit anywhere they choose. It is against to law to force people to move.” This sign BTW, directed to the Ultraorthodox men who would object to having sit next to a woman, especially a secular woman, because they might accidently touch or worse, she would corrupt his thoughts or his ritual purity because she may be “unclean”. Apparently there’s been a problem of women getting harassed by these guys.

    It’s one country around here where issues like equality for 20% of the Israeli population who are Palestinian, or settlements and politics are openly debated. Israel doesn’t have it right but they talk about it and the vote on it.

    This country has a booming economy at the moment. 2000 years of stressing education and learning is finally paying off as around the world power shifts to the geeks, there’s a high tech boom here fueled by Israeli and Russian mathematics and innovation. And there’s a growing disparity between the wealthy and middle classes as the price of housing goes through the roof. We saw Intel, all over the country (facilities were protected by Iron Dome) SAP, etc in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Skyscrapers and development town tenements.

    No issue here in Israel is easy. Everyone single one is like an onion, layers on layers on layers of complexity. A great metaphor can be found in Jerusalem, at the church of the Holy Seplecure. In the 1800’s a repairman left a ladder up there as he was installing some windows for the Ethiopian Orthodox chapel. None of the other groups in the Church, the Greeks, the Latins, the Armenians etc could agree on the work and no one could come to agreement on who should go up there and take down the ladder after the work was completed. They argued about it, any move to do something would indicated the supremacy of one group over another simply because they had given approval without consulting the others.

    150 years later, the ladder… it’s still there.

    Agreements here require enormous strength, and have to come from strength, a strength that at the moment, is a little hard to find. People like Rabin come along once in a while, but they do come along, I just hope everyone can recognize them when they do and have the courage to act.

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