Congrats to Norman Vladimir from a sentimental old sap

I watched the Kennedy Center Honors last night for (I think) the first time in my life. It’s the kind of show I haven’t tended to pay much attention to over the years.

Norman Vladimir - a photo from his website, where you can hear some of his songs http://normanvladimir.com/

But my daughter Emily’s good friend Norman Vladimir was singing with the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company and I wanted to see him.

Emily has known Norman since her first year of college, when he was Norman Vladimir Smith, from a small town in Tennessee. I last saw Norman a little over a year ago at Emily’s wedding. He’s a great guy, currently making his way in the music scene in New York.

Norman and Maya dancing at Emily & Kyle's wedding.


This appearance in front of President and Mrs. Obama, Oprah, Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, a crowd containing seemingly every celebrity in the U.S. — plus a national TV audience — is a big break for Norman. Judging by his Facebook comments about the evening, he’s ecstatic about the experience and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a wonderful singer and a great friend to Emily. I’ve only met him a few times over the years, but he’s the kind of guy whose laugh and smile brighten every room he’s in. He seems like an old friend the first time you meet him. I was thrilled and proud to see him as part of this big event.

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But my reaction to Norman’s appearance was not the “sentimental sap” part — that was straight up admiration.

What I didn’t expect was how much I enjoyed the rest of the show. Seeing people like Merle Haggard and Paul McCartney — aging entertainment giants for my generation — genuinely moved by the tributes, is what got to me. I’m not a big Broadway musical kind of guy, but even I got a little verklempt when Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing sang together to a trembling, glassy-eyed Jerry Herman in the balcony.

There were many such emotional moments — cutaways to Bill T. Jones channeling each movement of his dancers, Merle Haggard’s lips barely perceptively singing along with his own songs – eyes occasionally looking upward, Oprah reaching behind her head for Steadman’s hands during Jennifer Hudson’s performance from “The Color Purple”. Whatever you think of Oprah, this moment was genuine and sweet, and she deserves the honor.

But there was more to it than just watching these stars react to the accolades. I loved the way the honorees represented a variety of genres and the way they all genuinely seemed appreciative of and happy for each other. The audience also seemed to “get it”. We saw white country music fans (let’s admit it – not the usual African American ballet crowd) transfixed by the Bill T. Jones dancers, black people (let’s admit it – not the usual country music crowd) joyfully clapping along with Vince Gill and Brad Paisley doing “Working Man Blues”, Oprah knowing and singing the words to Haggard’s “Silver Wings” — and the big finale with Mavis Staples walking on stage to pick up McCartney’s “Let it Be” from James Taylor and sing the hell out it while Sir Paul teared up, probably thinking about his mother, who inspired the song.

Maybe it was seeing Norman have a brief moment as a part of all of this that got me in the right mood. Maybe it was seeing some of the aging icons of my life reacting to this kind of a tribute in such a genuine, emotional way — humbly watching, not being full of themselves — and being thankful. Maybe it was the realization that the old stars in the balcony were once young, struggling artists like Norman and many of the other performers on stage — and that the torch was being passed. Whatever the reason, I found myself enjoying the show very much.

Go ahead — call me a cornball.

Norman and Maya ham it up at Emily and Kyle's wedding (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Way to go Norman! I’m proud to know you. Thank you for being such a good friend for Emily and Kyle.

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This dream you’re living has come about because of the talent you have, the passion you’ve found, and most importantly, all the hard work you’ve put into it. My hat is off to you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Emily, Kyle & Norman

Dogsitting gets you outdoors

Emily and Kyle’s dog Peet has been staying with us for a few days while they were out of town. Peet’s a wonderful dog and we love having him in the house. I’ve never been a dog person, but I love this guy — and not just because he’s my first grandchild.

I’ve actually come to see some benefits (I already knew the downside) of taking him outside several times a day to take care of his needs. The first walk of the morning on a cold day is the one I never thought I’d enjoy, but I have to admit that there is something about the dark, the quiet, the crisp air, the big steaming turd in the snow on a winter morning. After living in Minnesota all my life, Peet has taught me to appreciate cold!

Peet

Just for the record, we will not be getting a dog. And I won’t take care of your dog. But I will gladly and eagerly take care of Peet any time they ask.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that it’s also because of Peet that I saw some beautiful winter scenery this morning. I would not have been out driving around southeastern Minnesota had Emily and I not agreed to meet in Cannon Falls, the half-way point between my house and hers, to return Peet to his Mom.

I’m glad I had my camera along, because the conditions were right for one of those morning frosty fogs that whitens all the trees and makes the whole landscape look like a greeting card. I had heard about fog warnings earlier, so I had an inkling that it would be beautiful when the sun came out.

When I saw this funky sunrise over the Mendota Bridge, I knew it was going to be interesting.

So after we said our sad goodbyes to other daughter, Lauren at the airport for her flight back to Chicago, Peet and I set off across the prairie. I had a nice breakfast in Cannon Falls with Emily, while Peet napped in the car. On the way back I got my camera out, took a couple of little side detours from U.S. 52, and shot some photos. Here are a few of them.

That’s all. Nothing more to report.

I love Peet.

I like going outside with him (usually).

When I do, I see stuff I wouldn’t otherwise see.

I miss him already.

And to paraphrase Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now — “I love the smell of steaming turds in the morning. It smells like victory!”

An ice Christmas is a nice Christmas

A while back, when we all used to all try to get together for Christmas, one person announced that his family wouldn’t be attending any more because they were “starting their own tradition”. At the time, I thought “what a jerk — you can’t even drive a couple of miles and spend an hour or two with the rest of us?” I actually pretty much still think that, but his statement did get me thinking. You can start a tradition? Very cool. I hadn’t realized that. Now, a few years later, I’ve come to embrace his philosophy.

Rochester, Minnesota is having an ice Christmas this year


This time of year is rough for a lot of people. Sometimes it has to do with things either not being the “way they used to be” or not being the way they “should be”. If a lot of energy is put into wanting a holiday to play out exactly the same way each year, or to match some mythical standard of a perfect Christmas of our youth, it’s a set-up for disappointment. First of all the math doesn’t work. Over the years there will be people added and people subtracted from the equation. Then there’s the issue of morphing, evolving families. Kids grow up and have in-laws. People can’t be in two places at one time, even when both sets of parents live in the same town. Add in a divorce here, separation there and you’ve got a recipe for unhappiness — unless your “traditions” have some flexibility.

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Since our daughter Emily married Kyle a little before Christmas last year, the tradition landscape has changed at our house. Kyle’s family lives 1200 miles away, so it’s probably going to be different every year. E & K were flying to the east coast a couple of evenings ago, so Emily invited us to have Christmas at their house in Rochester during the day before their flight left. I know that families do this kind of thing all the time, but this was a first for us — and you know what? It was pretty nice.

The day even included a miracle. When I was dispatched to the grocery store for a missing hot pepper, I saw something I thought I’d never see. Driving in front of me down Civic Center Drive in Rochester was a copy of the first NEW car I ever owned — a Dodge Omni! We bought one of the first ones the year they came out — 1978. I had only owned old beaters before that and this little $2,500 beauty was a dream come true.

I'm dreaming of a Dodge Omni. Just like the one I used to own . . . Ours was gray, but this sighting in Rochester sure brought back some memories

. . . . and the winner is -- this handsome 15-foot kid-destoyer in Rochester. Makes for an ice Christmas indeed.

After a few years, the car turned out to be a piece of crap, but it was my first new-car feeling and I still remember the day we bought it. I hadn’t seen one on the road for at least a dozen years and thought I’d never see one again — until this December 23rd miracle.

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Still reeling from the Omni sighting, I took an icicle-viewing walk with Lauren through Emily’s neighborhood. We had seen some impressive stalactites on the way into town and wanted to capture some of them with our cameras.

Then Kyle came home from work at noon and it was time for the Christmas lunch. Sandy had brought a delicious tomatillo chicken soup and Emily made tacos al pastor that were equally tasty.

Emily was enjoying the meal -- finger gesture directed at the photographer notwithstanding.


We opened gifts. Peet enjoyed his very much. I think he’s solidly on board with celebrating Christmas.

Two Jersey boys have now adopted Minnesota sports teams.


Soon it was time to take the “Datermarks” to the airport. It made me very happy that they would be able to spend Christmas with Kyle’s family. Kyle’s parents and brothers have hardly seen him since he and Emily moved to Minnesota six months ago. It’s tough (and will continue to be) for them to have Kyle so far away and I hope they can at least have a lot of holiday family gatherings during the years they live in Minnesota as well as a few other visits now and then.

Emily and Kyle do their best to deal with the holiday rush to check in at the Rochester airport. They landed safely in Scranton later that night for their Christmas in the Poconos.


So we still have Lauren and Peet. Who could ask for more than that?

Visions of sugar plums -- Lauren tells Peet that Santa's coming soon.


On Christmas Eve the three of us (Peet had a little down time) went to see True Grit and then had a very nice dinner at a Thai restaurant. This afternoon we’re doing the second go-round of a tradition we started last year — going bowling with the Powells, who are our neighbors and good friends (and happen to be Jewish). Now that’s one Christmas tradition I’d like to see continue.

This was taken on Christmas day last year. Here' a fun activity for you. See if you can pick out the Jews!


So that’s how we’re celebrating this year. It’s very nice and I’m extremely thankful for it. One of the things I like most about Christmas is that it’s different every year.

Peet wishes you all the best in this holiday season!


Whatever you’re doing today, I hope your day is merry and bright. I hope your traditions are happy, light-hearted and flexible — and don’t be afraid to start a new one.

Merry Christmas!

Top Ten reasons to spend the winter in Minnesota

Kyle helps Lauren build her dream house.

#10. It makes you appreciate NOT spending the winter in Minnesota.

#9. The comforting realization that you could probably live a productive life without fingers, toes, and ears.

#8. If your favorite color is white, it’s a no-brainer.

#7. With a $5 shovel, your driveway can become a work of art.

Hand-sculpted (no snowblower here)


#6. “Hunkering down” is considered an activity.

Emily hunkers down with a cold one.


#5. Ever drive for 45 minutes through a major city and never come to an actual stop? You can do it here!

That red light is just a "suggestion". The driver has to decide whether stopping and possibly getting stuck is worth the risk.


#4. You can make a lot of friends just by pushing cars.

#3. Our new motto. No longer the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, we’re now “Minnesota: Where everything is more difficult”.

#2. You get to say things like, “Anything above 10 degrees ain’t too bad” — and mean it.

#1. Thanks to our handy collapsible stadium, you can get free tickets to see your NFL team play its home games in Detroit!

Our alternative motto could be, "Where dreams come true". Emily has always embraced the winter.

Prairie School gem turns 100 — and we used to own it.

Ever have a tour bus pull up in front of your house with people gawking out the windows at you? This happened occasionally during the 10 years we owned what is known as the Hineline House on Dupont Ave. So. in Minneapolis. Having curious onlookers is an odd, but usually not unpleasant experience. When you find your house listed and pictured in architecture books, it starts to be kind of fun.

I still don’t quite understand how a family like ours ended up as the caretakers of this significant piece of history, art and architecture, but I’m glad it happened.

Page about our house from an article in The Western Architect in 1913. Note the detail of stained glass windows and bookcase doors.

In 1983, after owning a small house for 4 years, my wife, Sandy and I decided to move up to something a little larger. Our daughter, Emily was 2 at the time and we had hopes of having another youngster at some point (Lauren obliged by arriving two years later). Like many home buyers, we started looking within a certain price range, rejected all those possibilities and decided to move up in price and out of the comfort zone.

When we looked at the house at 4920 Dupont Avenue South in Minneapolis for the first time, I remember my initial reaction was that it was run-down and kind of dingy and dirty — ugly and old wallpaper and carpet, the yard was a mess, etc. — why were they asking so much for it? But after a minute or two inside, I started to notice the clean lines, the stained glass and architectural detail and realized this place was something special — and actually priced low, for what it was. But, as one architecture book put it, it had been “unsympathetically maintained”.


Then-reporter, now-Mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak did an article about 3 families buying houses in the summer of 1983. We were one of them. The wide-angle camera lens made the house look a lot bigger than it is. (and it's "Sandra", R.T. -- not "Saundra")

William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie (photo from Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Unified Vision: Architecture and Design of the Prairie School)

William Gray Purcell grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. He worked for a time in Louis Sullivan’s studio, where the Prairie School of architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright being its most notable progeny– began. George Feick, Jr., Purcell’s classmate at Cornell Architecture School also worked for Sullivan. In 1907, Purcell and Feick decided to leave Sullivan and opened a design office in Minneapolis. In 1909, they talked George Grant Elmslie — Sullivan’s chief designer — into coming to Minneapolis to join them.

Purcell, Elmslie & Feick Studio (photo from Minneapolis Institute of Arts Collection)

Various permutations of the Purcell, Feick & Elmslie team did hundreds of house, churches, banks and other commercial buildings all over the midwest, and eventually, the country. Some of their more well-known buildings are the Merchants Bank in Winona, Minnesota, the Purcell-Cutts House and the E.L. Powers Residence in Minneapolis. For a time, they were the most successful Prairie School architecture firm outside of Chicago.

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According to the book, At Home on the Prairie: The Houses of Purcell & Elmslie, by Dixie Legler and Christian Korab (Chronicle Books, 2006) a man named Burr, who was an associate of a company that had commissioned Purcell, Elmslie & Feick for a commercial project, wanted them to design a house for his daughter and her soon-to-be husband, Harold E. Hineline. “Burr wanted us to do a nice little house for the young couple”, said Purcell.

Legler and Korab write, “The Hinelines’ two-story home was based on a 1908 Purcell and Feick remodeling of a barn into a house for Arthur Jones, ‘a very simple project [that] had a great influence on all my later work’, Purcell said. ‘In this little house I made my first detailed examination of the relation of a building to the size of people and the geography of movements.”

Detail of door, bookcase and dining room cabinet stained glass patterns (photo from University of Minnesota Libraries)


Photo of door depicted in above drawing

This photo of the door sketched in the drawing above is from a great website called Prairie School Traveler , which has quite a few very nice photos of the the interior of the house.

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Even though the asking price for this house was clearly out of our comfort zone, its allure was grew on us as we imagined ourselves living in it and cleaning it up. There was another bidder, but somehow our offer of $104,000 won out and we got the house.

The place really did need a lot of work. An elderly couple had lived there for over 40 years. When they died, their daughter lived there for a time and obviously did not have the means or desire to keep it up. We certainly weren’t the most knowledgeable of owners and we couldn’t afford large-scale restoration, but we did our best to study up on Prairie School architecture and at least stabilize the deterioration, clean it up and improve the decor.

The dining room. One of few photos I can find of the house that doesn't have people in it.

I’ve been going through old photos looking for pictures of architectural detail and realize that I didn’t take many photos of the house itself. The house was just a backdrop for pictures of the family. While we enjoyed living there very much, we often didn’t think about it as a work of art — it was just home.

The leaded glass bookcase is visible, but not the focus of this Christmas photo from the late '80s.

Even though it was a great house in many ways, its limitations and flaws began to become more noticeable as the years went by. One bathroom is fine for a couple with one small child, but as the girls got older, we wanted another one. The kids’ bedrooms were very small and lacked closet space. In 1983 when we moved in, our daughter, Emily, was 2 years old. Ten years later, Emily was 12 and Lauren 8.

By the winter of ’92 – ’93 we were starting to think about looking for a new house. We had mentioned that to a few friends and neighbors, but weren’t all that serious. Then one day in the spring of ’93, a young couple, Beth and Steve rang our doorbell and asked if we’d be interested in selling. We started seriously looking for a new house, worked out a good price with them and that was that.

Lauren flushes away the old house and gets ready for the new as we prepared to move in October of 1993

Beth and Steve lived there for several years and put a lot of time and effort into restoration. They had quite a few stained glass windows replicated, had the sawed-wood ornaments on the front entry recreated and did many other period decorating and style improvements. They invited us over a few years back and it made me happy that they had put so much into it — more than we were able to do during our tenure.

It’s been 17 years now since we moved. I drive by it every few weeks or so. Sure brings back a lot of memories — most are good ones. Our family went through some unhappy times there, but fortunately we came out on the positive side. I liked living there a lot, but the move to our present house was a good one. It was the right time to pass this important house on to others. I’m just glad we had 10 years there and I feel lucky to be a small part of its history.

As for the date of the 100th birthday? Not exactly sure. The blueprints and most books say 1910, but some sources say 1911. Most likely it was designed in one year and construction completed the next. Whatever the day — Happy Birthday to the Hineline House and thank you to Mr. Purcell, Mr. Elmslie and Mr. Feick — wherever you are. Your beautiful designs live on and enrich the lives of everyone who occupies those spaces. I’m a big fan of you guys.

Yesterday was a spirit bead for me

Many Native American cultures, including my mother’s Anishinabe (Ojibwe) heritage, include a concept called the “spirit bead”. Women would intentionally string a wrong-colored bead into an otherwise perfect pattern as an act of humility — to demonstrate their belief that only God can create something that is perfect.

See if you can spot the bead that's out of place in this Ojibwe (Anishinabe) bandolier bag from the 1930s (photo by Ann Kiefstad for MNArts.org)

My Mom never taught us about this because it’s likely she didn’t know it herself. This and other interesting and potentially meaningful traditions were taken from her mother at the Haskell Boarding School in Kansas. My Mom did teach me a bit about another kind of beads — the ones on a rosary, which are used to keep track of how many times a “prayer” is chanted. For me, those beads were in the category of meaningLESS traditions.

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Religion aside, I think the spirit bead is kind of a cool idea. We all get frustrated when things aren’t exactly the way we want them. Many of us are all too aware of our lack of perfection and get discouraged when trying to do something well. For anyone who has obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive, control freakish or generally perfectionist tendencies, the act of making a mistake or leaving something undone provides a good opportunity to take a breath and look at the bigger picture.

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Last spring, on my 57th birthday, I decided to do two things — 1. write this blog, and 2. Take a photograph every day and post it to my photo-of-the-day website. The blog has been coming along, some months better than others. The idea behind the photo project was to make sure I stop and notice something every day and preserve a moment in time. I’d shot and posted a photo each day since April 1st (8 months and 2 days) — until yesterday. Some days I barely made it and took a late-evening photo. When I was in the hospital recently, I had 3 days of cell-phone photos in the room. A couple of times, I did a “screen grab” from some video I’d shot that day. But I was pretty proud of the fact that I’d keep it going for so many months without missing a day.

For a variety of reasons, yesterday passed without a photo. It got to be evening and I had to soak my foot (recent surgery). My foot was hurting, it was getting late and I decided to take a day off — make it a spirit bead, so to speak.

While the photo of the day project has been very good for me, I’m glad I did that last night. It reminds me why I’m doing the project in the first place – to stop and notice.

So, if you ever look through my photos, remember that December 3 is the orange bead on the green pattern. Of course no one but me cares or will ever notice it, but that’s perfectly fine.

Well, almost perfectly.

Still thankful the day after

I’m pretty cynical about the “true meaning” of most holidays, but I like the idea of Thanksgiving. A lot of people who share the Native American portion of my heritage don’t agree, but that’s mostly about some false notion that Thanksgiving is about Pilgrims and Indians.

Miscast as a Pilgrim as a kindergartener at Schiller School in Minneapolis in 1958

While there was most certainly a day of giving thanks by the Pilgrims in the fall of 1621 and another in the summer of 1623, those events were not particularly unusual or noteworthy. Harvest celebrations were common among many cultures, including native ones. The accounts I’ve read of what was said by people such as Robert Bradford and Edward Winslow included a lot of thanking of God, but barely a mention of the Indians who taught them how to farm in the New World and saved their asses those first couple of years. Shouldn’t they have been the ones to be thanked?

Tisquantum, or "Squanto", gave the Pilgrims a LOT of help during their first year in Massachusetts

Thanksgiving wasn’t really celebrated as a national holiday for about a century and a half after the Pilgrims. It certainly didn’t continue at all as a tradition among the Wampanoags of Massachusetts, because they all died, mostly of disease, within a few years of the Pilgrims’ arrival. I don’t hear too many giving thanks for that these days.

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Some form of Thanksgiving holiday has generally existed in the U.S. since the Continental Congress made its first proclamation about it in 1777 — with no reference to the Pilgrims, by the way. For many decades, Thanksgiving was declared on a year-by-year basis by the President. It was often celebrated on different dates and in different ways by the various states. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made some of the most famous proclamations of taking a day to celebrate thankfulness, but neither had anything to say about the Pilgrims, Plimouth, the native people, or anything of that time period. They were much more interested in being thankful for recent and future battlefield victories.

There was little consistency, however. For instance, President Jefferson never declared a Thanksgiving Day during his presidency. It wasn’t until FDR pushed for it to be a standardized date in the earl ’40s that what we now know as Thanksgiving Day really began to solidify as a tradition.

So as interested as I am in studying history and preserving the past, this day we in the U.S. set aside every November really is completely a reflection of whomever is celebrating it and what they choose to be thankful for at the present time. Most Americans acknowledge the day in some way, usually getting together with family and friends and sharing food.

That’s the part I really like — the way it goes across cultures and religions. Even though the Pilgrims were Christian, it’s not specifically about being Christian at all. Every culture in some way values thankfulness, gratefulness, gratitude — or at least appreciation — of life. It’s something we can all agree on.

Sometimes it's good to take a step back and think about what we're teaching our children.

As a teacher, I think making a big deal out of the Pilgrims and the “first Thanksgiving” is wrong on many levels, including perpetuating historical inaccuracies and disregarding similar celebrations and traditions of cultures other than 17th century separatist British Christians.

I’m thankful for a lot of things, the most important of which is having a great family and wonderful friends. Due to a set of circumstances that I won’t bore you with, I nearly had to spend Thanksgiving in a hospital bed this year with my family 80 miles away. The fact that it didn’t end up that way is much more a product of doctors and nurses doing their jobs very well during a busy and very personal time of the year than with any sort of special divine providence. If you think about the bigger picture, it’s also owed to the pursuit of science and reason through history — the courage of those people who have persistently sought truth in the face of opposition by religious dogmatists.

Resting comfortably and watching a documentary about John Lennon while the bag of good stuff drips into my arm. Life could be a lot worse than this.

An infection of the type I encountered is now fought with some bags of fluid dripping into a person’s arm. But for most of human history, it would have been a lot more serious. I did not have spirits that needed to be driven out as the Pilgrims might have thought. I had bacteria that needed to be neutralized by antibodies of a quantity and type that my body was not able to produce on its own.

For the scientists that developed these wonderful and powerful medicines, I am thankful.

For the doctors and nurses that treated me with kindness and attention on a couple of snowy days just before a big holiday, I am thankful.

For my friends at work who rallied and took the time to make sure my students and their substitute teacher had what they needed for a couple of days and then supported me with well-wishes and offers of more support, I am thankful.

For my family, who expressed disappointment at the possible prospect of not getting released for Thanksgiving and then showing me such love when I was able to make it to Rochester on Thursday, I am thankful.

Maya Powell gives advice to Kyle and Emily about their first Turkey in the new house.


Kyle talking to his parents on the phone. Lauren and Peet getting reacquainted.

But if I had needed to spend Thanksgiving day in the hospital, I would have been just as thankful, because of all of those people acting in such a human way toward not only me, but anyone else in the same situation.

Yesterday was a good day. Today is, too. Nobody knows about tomorrow yet.

For those of you for whom things aren’t going so well right now, my heart goes out to you. I hope I can help in some way.

It’s not about the Pilgrims, folks.

Dr. Cedermark was on call in case I needed any medical attention while in Rochester.

Damn Yankees! – Yogi was right even when he was wrong

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, according to Yankee legendary malapropster Yogi Berra. But he also said, “It’s like deja vu all over again”, and right now that seems closer to the truth for the Minnesota Twins. It would take either a miracle or a deal with the devil, such as an appearance by the fictional Joe Hardy, for the Twins to get past the Damn Yankees in the American League Divisional Series.

Quite simply, the Twins have not figured out a way to beat the Yankees in the playoffs. You may not want to join me in my pessimism just yet, but realism, at least, certainly seems appropriate and optimism would be downright silly in the Twins’ trip to the Bronx this weekend. So let’s just tip our hats to the Yanks (we can curse them without hating them) and give our Minnesota Twins high fives for a wonderful season in our great new ballpark.

Twins celebrate a walk-off win over the Toronto Blue Jays last Saturday (photo by Steve Date)

Rather than dwelling on the losses of the past two evenings, I prefer to remember my visit to Target Field with my family last Saturday. It was a stunningly beautiful autumn day (if you were sitting in the sun). The home town boys had been on a slide since clinching the AL Central Division title. They needed a win to stir up some mojo for the playoffs.

Wacky hijinx by the kids before the game in the big glove. (Kyle, Emily, Lauren) (photo by Steve Date)

Shortstop Alexi Casilla provided the necessary excitement with a base hit in the bottom of the ninth, driving in two runners for a walk-off win. The celebration on the field and in the stands could have been mistaken for a championship win. It was one of those moments that can make baseball as thrilling as any sport. I feel lucky to have been there.

'. . . and we'll see you tomorrow night!' - the words of 1991 World Series announcer Jack Buck echo in the ears of Twins fans when they see Kirby's statue at Target Field (photo by Steve Date)

The Twins have provided a lot of thrills over the years and I was fortunate enough to have been an in-person witness to two of the best — the Game 7 win in the 1987 World Series and Kirby Puckett’s game winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 Series, a moment that has been immortalized by Kirby’s Statue at Target Field.

The outfield at Target Field is a work of art. (photo by Steve Date)

As I’ve said before, I love Target Field. I’m glad it was built and I’m happy with the plan the movers and shakers came up to pay for it. To the extent that taxpayers are chipping in, all I can say is that it’s worth every penny. It’s an amazing asset to downtown Minneapolis and to baseball fans all over the upper midwest.

No matter what the outcome of this playoff series, the situation is this: The Twins have a solid team with a bright future, they have a great stadium that is generating a lot of community pride and they’ve moved to the next phase of a team history that doesn’t take a backseat to anyone.

Yogi Berra also said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”. The Twins took the fork and will be providing the beauty, excitement and spirit that baseball brings to a community for many years to come.

Yogi missed the mark a bit though, when he said, “The future ain’t what it use to be.” For Minnesota baseball fans, it is — and maybe even better.

So my hat is off to the Minnesota Twins baseball club and the powers that be in government and business, not to mention journalists such as my friend Steve Berg (see earlier post), that had the foresight, creativity and determination to make this happen.

We Minnesota baseball fans now have plenty to look forward to and it has nothing to do with beating those damn Yankees this weekend.

So go Twins! It ain’t over ’til it’s over. New deja vus have to start somewhere.

3 Dates run the Twin Cities Marathon

Yesterday was great. I got a chance to run a marathon with my two daughters. Think about that for a minute. What a wonderful thing.

7:00 AM - It's go time! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Last April, Emily ran the Charlottesville, Virginia Marathon with her husband, Kyle, his two brothers and their girlfriends. She did very well on a difficult course, posting a 4:19. Younger sister Lauren had also been doing a lot of running over the winter and spring, working her way up to some significant mileage. Dad, on the other hand, had been slowly, but steadily sliding into old age. Although I ran marathons regularly for about 11 years, I had decided in 2002 that I would retire from the sport and put on weight (apparently).

When Emily found out that Kyle had been accepted for a residency position at the Mayo Clinic and they would be moving to Rochester, she called me up and told me she was thinking about entering the Twin Cities Marathon. She asked me if I’d like to run it with her.

Yikes.

I was having trouble running 3 or 4 miles at the time. But of course, I said yes. I would have been a fool to turn down an offer like that.

Lauren and Emily before the marathon (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

When Lauren decided to enter, too, I was thrilled. It would be her first, and I was glad she was going to give it a try.

I wished I had more months to prepare myself and at the same time I couldn’t wait for marathon day to get here. Because Emily lives in Minnesota now, I was able to do some long runs and a couple of races with her (see earlier posts). Lauren was doing her training in Chicago, so I was only getting verbal reports about that. But she did a 5 mile and 10 mile races and then a half-marathon, so I knew she would be ready.

It was a great weekend. It was good to have the whole family (including Kyle) together. We went to the Twins game and the marathon expo on Saturday. The Twins won!

This is what it looks like from the start corral, just before the race begins. (photo by Steve Date)

The three of us ran together for about the first mile and a half. Then Emily took off a little faster than Lauren and I were comfortable with so we ran together for a while. I intended to stay with her longer, but when we went past Alan Page playing his tuba at about the 2.5 mile mark, I ran over to snap a photo of him. After that, I couldn’t find Lauren again in the huge crowd of runners.

Lauren (in center with white shirt) as we ran through the Kenwood neighborhood, just before I lost her. (photo by Steve Date)

Minnesota Viking great and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page entertains marathon spectators near his home in the Kenwood neighborhood. (photo by Steve Date)

I’ll spare you the details of the actual race, but let’s just say that it was painful. Kyle and Sandy were at mile 7 along with friends Mary and Diane. Then they met us again just before the 18 mile mark.

Emily says goodbye to husband just before the 18 mile mark. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily finished strong, cutting more than 6 minutes from her previous marathon time to finish in 4:13. Lauren ran a wonderful, steady pace throughout and finished her first marathon in a very impressive 4:25. Little did I know she was only about 30 seconds behind me at the end. I wish we could have crossed the finish line together. But it was very cool being with the two of them just after the finish.

Emily waves to Kyle less than a quarter-mile before the finish line.

Very proud Dad with two great daughters. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Gotta have the space blankets. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

It was an amazing day for me. I’m so proud of the girls. I’m so lucky to have been able to share it with them. It was a day I’ll never forget.

The Date girls are ready for the Twin Cities Marathon

I know you’ve heard this before, but I like my daughters — a lot. Today happened to be one of those days where I was really feeling proud.

Emily and I ran the City of Lakes 25K (that’s 15.5 miles to you and me) this morning. It’s two laps around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun plus an extra 2/3 loop of Harriet.

Emily looks refreshed and ready to enjoy a cold beverage in her commemorative stein an hour after running 15.5 miles around Lakes Harriet and Calhoun.

As was the case the day Emily and I ran the Gopher to Badger Half-Marathon (see my post from 8/15/10), younger daughter, Lauren was running a race in Chicago. Today it was the Chicago Half-Marathon. Over 13,500 runners finished this behemoth of a race. Lauren did great — ignoring the pain of her blistered feet, she finished in the top 27% of all women and top 39% overall. Way to go, BabyDate!

The City of Lakes is a nice race — beautiful but predictable course, plenty of water and porto-potties, small field of well-under 1,000 runners. One thing Emily and I both noticed right away when we arrived this morning was the general high-quality of the field. This is very much a tune-up race for people planning to run a fall marathon. The vast majority of entrants looked great — lean, mean and serious about running. So we had a little trouble blending in, but we got over it.

Emily was up to the task, running a steady 9-minute pace with enough left in the tank for a little kick during the last mile. I really enjoy running with Emily and I’m so grateful to be able to do these training runs with her. She’s going to do very well in the Twin Cities Marathon — 3 weeks from today.

Lauren is going to do great in the marathon, too. I should mention that she’s gotten herself into shape even while working long, stressful hours at a new job for the past 3 1/2 months. It’s very impressive. I wish I could run with her, too, but she’s over 400 miles away. She prefers running alone, but I’d still like to join her once in a while — or at least be there to cheer her on.

I’m so proud of both of my girls — not just because of the running, but because of the people they’ve become. It’s so cool to see. May all of you be so lucky to have kids like these.

I’m very much looking forward to October 3rd. See you at the Dome — and the Capitol.

There are no available photos from Lauren's race this morning, but I'm guessing she looked pretty much the way she did when she finished her first road race, the Get In Gear 1K in 1992.