Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Red Solo Cup

This morning I read that the developer of the red Solo cup, Robert Hulseman, had died.

The cup was first produced in the 1970's and is known to generations of students as the cup of choice for keggers. It's also the preferred growing container for cannabis.

I took the photograph at the top of this post in 2009 at the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. My partner's dad had passed away a few months earlier. We all knew him as Chub and we dearly missed him, his simple approach to life, and his cheeky humor.

Now, the family was gathered at the headwaters to perform a simple ritual that we once discussed with Chub: we were going to send a few ounces of his ashes down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Maybe ocean currents would carry him to Greenland where he served in the military.

Needless to say we did not ask permission, as it would have been denied. We realized we needed a discreet way to introduce the ashes to the water without catching the attention of park rangers.

We found a red Solo cup in the trunk of our car. It smelled vaguely of stale wine, which would have reduced Chub to giggles had he been there in person. The oldest grandson introduced the contents of the cup to the Mississippi.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My America

Today I waited at Cedar Riverside light rail station for a friend. We were going to walk and chat about our memories of the area. He, and his father before him, had attended the nearby Augsburg College. [See his blog post.]

100 years ago, the Cedar Riverside area of Minneapolis was the first American home for waves of Scandinavians. Augsburg College, with its Norwegian/Lutheran roots was well situated here.

Back then, the prevailing culture sometimes stereotyped the newcomers as dumb, clumsy, heavy drinkers who talked with a funny accent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Imperfect Gifts for Long-Haul Travelers

The other day I came across an article at with the click-bait title: 10 Perfect Gifts for your Favorite Long-Haul Traveler.

I was skeptical right out of the starting gate: I travel light, a declaration I repeat ad nauseam. Recently I renewed my passport, and opted for the version with more pages as I was running out of visa pages in my existing passport. I hummed and hawed at the additional bulk and weight (0.7 ounces) but eventually decided convenience outweighed the additional weight, if you excuse the pun.

I don't need much. What I need for a two-day trip is identical to what I need for a two-month trip.

But what goodies would the article reveal: essential items, or things I didn't realize I didn't need?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Carny's Final Journey

If I die in a distant place, my instructions are simple. No coffin, no embalming, just have me cremated then shipped back in a generic box to Minneapolis.

That's it: one final flight to MSP, then scatter my ashes somewhere.

Lakewood Cemetery would be a fine place for The Scattering. It's beautifully maintained by a nonprofit, it's beside a Minneapolis lake, Lake Calhoun, and I'd be in the company of the likes of Hubert Humphrey and Paul Wellstone. Oh yes, and Tiny Tim.

I have a physical place to return to, but what about people who do not have such a place?

So today, I left a track in the fresh snow as I walked the 6,000 steps from our front door to the southern corner of Section 28 of Lakewood Cemetery. Here I hoped to learn something about people who have no physical place to return to when they die.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Our Personal Kitchen Assistant

This week we welcomed a personal assistant into our home. Or, to be more precise, FedEx delivered a Google Assistant.

It's a stubby, round box you plug into the wall. It listens for our commands and talks to us via surprisingly good speakers. It connects to Google services over WiFi.

It sits in a corner of our kitchen and has already changed how we do things.

We've eliminated the need for a paper groceries list. Instead we keep a list in Google Keep, an application I use frequently for quick notes.