Dog Days are here again

The little bathroom is almost done.  The temps are starting to go down. We’re picking tomatoes.  The State Fair is just ahead.  Svea starts Kindergarten next week. Time to savor the remaining days of summer.

Here’s a photo from each day of last week.

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(8/13/17)  The tiny bathroom is nearly done, thanks to the hard work of expert craftsmen and artists (such as the one pictured here). It’s too bad there was no one around to hold that light for her.

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(8/14/17)  Urban fishing at its best — Lake Harriet, Minneapolis.  What you may not know is that there are some very large game fish (Muskellunge) in this lake.  Watch the video below to see someone catching a Muskie in Lake Harriet.

Here’s a video of someone landing a 39-inch Muskellunge from a dock in Lake Harriet within the city limits of Minneapolis. Muskies 6-8 inches longer than this one are not uncommon here. 

 

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(8/15/17) No, the PGA Champions Tour was not in town. But Ron Julien was the coolest cat on the course today at Como Golf Course in St. Paul. Thanks, Ron, for inviting me to play!

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(8/16/17) Imagine the odds against being in my photo of the day TWO days in a row! But Ron managed to do it during Happy Hour at Barrio Restaurant on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.  Here, he reacts when Mary says, “Whoa, Ron, I think you’ve had about enough bean dip and guacamole.”

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(8/17/17)  It’s that time of year.

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(8/18/17) I tore my Meniscus for this photo of a Hibiscus.

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(8/19/17)  Sometimes those Groupons really pay off.  Osteria I Nonni in St. Paul is a fantastic Italian restaurant, and neither of us had ever been there before.

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Last week is here already!

I posted 7 pics this morning. I have been behind in posting since April, and I thought time would never catch up with me, but here they are already — last week’s photos. I’ve caught my tail!

 

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(7/23/17) The “Southside Sprint” is a day-long series of bike races through our neighborhood.  It’s the second half of the Big Waters Classic, which begins with the “Rondo Rush” in St. Paul a day earlier. There are some very good bikers in these races, and it’s fun to watch them buzz around and around a 3/4-mile route near the 48th and Chicago Ave. area in south Minneapolis. At 2:30, there’s a kids “race”. My two intrepid grandchildren are seen above mentally preparing for the start.  Svea cranked around the course with the same game-face you see here, while Otto scooted his pedal-less glider bike while his dad ran along trying to keep up. Both kids enjoyed getting a medal at the end and were even more excited about the free water bottles.

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(7/24/17) Filling the ammo tank in preparation for soaking Gramps using the blue and red weapons in the foreground. 

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(7/25/17) Columbia Golf Course in N.E. Minneapolis

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(7/26/17) The Happy Hour group met at LUSH in N.E. Minneapolis this week.  Lori shows how she feels about Claire’s color choices, while Krista and Ron prefer to avert their eyes.

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(7/27/17) Life on the Mississippi

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(7/28/17) Roger is looking good as he hits his second shot on the 15th hole at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course.

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(7/29/17) Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

 

Photos from the less-distant past

Today I’m posting photos of the day from only a couple of weeks ago.  I’m almost caught up. This is progress.  As a procrastinator, being this close to on-time is scary territory. But since this project is the least important of all the things in my life that I’m behind on, the bigger picture is that I’m still in my “don’t worry, I’ll get it done” groove.

Here are my photos from Week #29 of this year.

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(7/16/17) We went with the kids and grandkids to see the St. Paul Saints play at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul. I love this place. It’s nestled unobtrusively into a corner of the “Lowertown” area.  The dark color they chose and the open middle-tier design make it a low-key, airy, and elegant structure. You can stroll around the whole perimeter at the top of the lower deck level and linger to watch for a while just about anywhere, such as this spot in right field.

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(7/17/17) In the driveway

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(7/18/17) The only picture I took today — a plate of mussel shells and a bunny at the Italian Eatery near where we live. OK, so the bunny’s not Elvis or Jesus, but hey — it’s a piece of bread! Shaped like a bunny! (I.E. is a very good place to eat, by the way.)

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(7/19/17) We both like the light above our front door.

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(7/20/17) Guess who at guess where?

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(7/21/17) Not sure of these guys’ names, but they’re part of “Chase and Ovation”, a Prince tribute band that we saw at the Lowertown Blues and Funk Festival in St. Paul.

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(7/22/17) A man fishes on a dock at Lake Hiawatha, one of the smallest and least-known lakes within the city limits of Minneapolis. This lake is part of an ongoing controversy, because the western shore (in the distance) is actually a levee that keeps the lake at its current level and keeps the Hiawatha Golf Course (and part of the neighborhood) from being flooded. The city has to constantly pump bazillions of gallons of water into the lake to keep the golf course open.  They’re seriously considering stopping that, letting the lake flood the course and return to it’s natural level. That might seem like a reasonable plan that allows nature to take it’s course (what a great pun, huh?) but the golf course and nearby homes have been around since they dredged a swampy area in 1929, so there are very few living people who remember it being any other way. Minneapolis is very lucky to have the municipal golf courses we have, and I hope we don’t lose this one.

My fickle friend, the summer wind

Week #27 of my photo-a-day project takes us through that peak week of summer, when most of us take a time out, maybe cook some kind of animal on the grill, and find ourselves seeking shade and bodies of water.

It’s the time of year that makes me think of my favorite Frank Sinatra song. So sit back, open a window, close your eyes, feel the breeze, and have a listen.

 

“Like painted kites, those days and nights, they went flyin’ by” . . .

And now, a photo from each day of the week.

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(7/2/17)  Minnehaha Parkway, Minneapolis

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(7/3/17) Roderick Cox conducts the Minnesota Orchestra in Independence Day Eve concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis. The weather was perfect and the orchestra sounded great.

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(7/4/17)  You thought I was going to have a picture of fireworks, right?  Nope, couldn’t stay up that late . . . but can you think of a more patriotic dessert?   —  RED strawberries, WHITE ice cream,  BLUE blueberries — that’s as American as apple pie!

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(7/5/17)  Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

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(7/6/17)  I saw this in someone’s front yard while I was running — a very nice twist on the “Little Free Library” phenomenon.  “Blessing Box: Grab a bag, take what you need.”

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(7/7/17) They don’t make ’em any cuter than this.

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(7/8/17) While on a bike ride by the Mississippi River (downtown St. Paul in the distance) we stopped and talked with this young man about fishing.  He told us he usually does pretty well here — once landing a 45-pound catfish!

 

 

A photo a day for the last week of June

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(6/25/17) Stained glass above doors at the old Veterans Home in Minneapolis.

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(6/26/17) We have a hummingbird! The new feeder is a success.

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(6/27/17) Late afternoon soccer practice at the little park down the block by Minnehaha Creek.

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(6/28/17) Minneapolis

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(6/28/17) Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

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(6/29/17) Otto’s favorite spectator sport

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(7/1/17) 2nd hole, Keller Golf Course, St. Paul. One of the great features of the remodeled course is the abundance of wild flowers and prairie grass.

How to take action? That is the question.

To actWe’re now beyond “To act, or not to act”. While it appears that “wait-and-see” continues as the modus operandi for most of those who voted for the person who currently holds the office of President, (although the Trumpcare proposal is causing a few cracks to appear) I think it’s safe to say that nearly all of us who voted against him have seen enough, and that there’s no more time for waiting.

Not since the Viet Nam War have the actions and words of a President produced such a polarized and angry climate.  I don’t think the degree of pissoffedness (or is it pissedoffness?) is not really measured by the public opinion polls. The latest poll has Mr. T at a 37% approval rating vs. 58% disapproval.  What I have observed is this — the 37% has been pretty quiet lately, and the 58% are mad as hell.

We are mad about this madness in Washington (and not just the White House)  and many of us want to be more involved in this fight — this “resistance”.  But we don’t really know where to direct all our new-found energy.

Karen and I were talking to someone at a coffee shop on Friday and “the situation” came up, as it often does these days. The woman we’d just met told us she was going to an event the next day, and that perhaps we might be interested as well.  It was the annual state meeting of TakeActionMinnesota.org, a political action and lobbying group that has been around for 10 years.

So we went.  It turned out to be a very good way to spend 3 hours.

I went to a breakout session on communicating with elected officials, where a large group was divided into tables of about a dozen people, each discussion facilitated by a TakeActionMN leader. Karen went to the health care session.

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My table included (L-R: John Lesch, MN State Representative, Nick Faber, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, a note-taker, and Stephanie Gasca, Minneapolis City Council candidate)

Nick Faber, Vice President of the St. Paul teachers union, led my group’s discussion. Also at my table were a candidate for Minneapolis City Council, a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul, and a State Representative.

State Representative Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, the first Somali-American elected to statewide office in the the nation addressed the larger group. After lunch, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, who recently finished second in the quest for the chair of the Democratic National Committee, mingled and chatted with anyone who was interested, and then got up and gave a rousing call-to-action speech.  I feel good about living in a city that elected both of these people — especially in these strange and turbulent times.

The energy level in the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building was high, and the message mostly hopeful and positive.  There’s much work to be done, but it feels like a lot of us are willing to be more informed and more engaged than we have in the past. What will that be for me? I’m not entirely sure yet. It will start with sending a check to TakeAction Minnesota.  Then I will move through the menu of options for involvement and decide what other things I’m willing to do.

Let’s keep in mind that this fight is not about one person. While he’s big and and obnoxious and scary, he’s a symptom, not the disease.

I will, no doubt, continue to complain.  But I have to do more than than. We all have to do more than that. Thanks to Cathy at the coffee shop, we at least got started.

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We even had a little march through some of the streets of West St. Paul after the meeting — in support of the diverse neighborhood that will be hit hard by the current administration’s choices and policies.

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Looking through my Photo-of-the-Day choices, I realized that the theme for last week was “getting together with groups of people” — some friends, some new acquaintances, and a couple of krazy kids. I began and ended the week with new groups doing things that were (mostly) new to me — good bookends for the week.

Here are my photos for Week #11 of 2017.

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(3/12/17) John Trepp is a writer of screenplays. Maureen and John invited us to join his group on Sunday morning for a reading of one of the scripts he’s been working on.  I got to play two parts — “Old Man #2” and a juicy role called “Gardener”.  After our reading of his 100-page screenplay, we gave John feedback about his story and character development. John can be seen sitting in the lower right of this photo, listening to us read his work.

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(3/13/17) One of the great old apartment buildings along the west side of the 4800 block of Chicago Ave. So. in Minneapolis

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(3/14/17) “Ten more minutes, you two! Then you can have lunch — IF there’s any left.”

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(3/15/17) This week’s version of our  weekly Wednesday Happy Hour group.  This week we met at Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. We’re doing our best to hold it together through the winter until our founder and fearless leader, Mary Livingston, comes back to Minnesota and brings the other snowbirds back with her.

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(3/16/17) Modern Times Cafe on 32nd and Chicago brightens up a gray winter day.

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(3/17/17) Guess which holiday? (Don’t get thrown off by the bunny sweater.)

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(3/18/17) U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (Minnesota 5th District) takes a silly group selfie with some of the attendees at the TakeAction Minnesota annual meeting in St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All about Aaron

I’m in the middle of making a documentary film about Aaron Westendorp. I’m saying that up front, because I’m sure that Aaron is starting to doubt that I’ll ever finish it. (Watch a 4-minute clip at the bottom of this page.)

I met Aaron about two years ago.  Aaron’s parents, Krista and Doug, are part of a loosely organized weekly Happy Hour group that Karen and I hang out with. They’d told me a bit about their (now) 31 year old son — how he was quite a character, and how he had overcome a lot of stuff in his childhood — specifically some physical ailments and disabilities.

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KFAI News Director Dale Connelly giving Aaron a little help with his newsbreak. Aaron reads the news on-air with a text-to-voice program.

I was especially intrigued by the “quite a character” part. They told me he did some announcing and interviewing at a radio station (even though he doesn’t speak vocally), how he was smart, funny, sarcastic, fiercely independent, how he had a penchant for connecting with certain types of people, such as celebrities he admired, and political movers and shakers. They also told me he was very social justice-minded and identified with people who found themselves on the fringes of society for whatever reason.  To top it off, he was a music freak — especially older and offbeat stuff — AND a percussionist himself.  I decided I wanted to meet this guy and I asked them if they thought he might be interested in letting me make a documentary film about him.  Krista advised me to give it a shot, and gave me his email address.

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Here’s Aaron, characteristically in the front of the pack at a Black Lives Matter march in the Twin Cities.

In my first email to Aaron, I was a little unsure how to describe why I wanted to make a film about him (without having met him) without it sounding like the only reason I was interested was because he has some disabilities. Then I realized that if I was honest with myself, that the disability angle WAS, in fact, a big part of why I was initially interested.  This kid wasn’t just any funny, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, assertive, musical, smartass radio announcer —  but he was all that without the ability to talk, most of the time using a wheelchair, and with limitations in the use of his hands and arms.  But when you meet Aaron, you quickly realize that the physical limitations are noticeable at first, but they are far from the most important things about him.

Here’s Aaron’s response to my first note to him asking if he’d like to meet me and let me make a film about him, “I trust my mom has good judgement about these things, so as long as you don’t ask me to take off my clothes, we’re good.”

I literally LOL-ed, and knew immediately that we were going to get along.

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Aaron and bandleader Johnny Holm having a great time making music together at Neison’s Bar in Savage, Minnesota.

I’ve recorded quite a bit of video with Aaron.  He usually sets up the shoot — at an event or place that is important to him. He’s invited me to his apartment to meet his nurse, to several gigs when he’s played with the Johnny Holm Band, to the Minneapolis May Day parade that he’s in every year, to a St. Paul Saints baseball game, to his birthday party at his sisters’ house. One day he texted to invite me to stop in at a brew pub where he was DJ-ing. For me, the most fun one he set up was getting me backstage after a Prairie Home Companion show and interviewing his long-time friend Garrison Keillor and several of the people in the show.

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Aaron and good friend Garrison Keillor trade sarcastic barbs backstage at Macalester College in St. Paul following the 4th of July Prairie Home Companion Show last year.

I’ve also visited Aaron when he was hospitalized for some potentially serious stuff.  He monitors his own health and lets people know when he’s having problems.  His parents raised him to be independent and advocate for himself.  He makes it clear to his Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) that they work for him — he calls the shots, and they are there to help with the relatively few things he’s not physically able to completely do by himself.

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Doug, Krista and sister Jill join Aaron a St. Paul Saints baseball game.

I’ll be finishing a rough cut of his film soon and hope to have the whole thing done later this spring. Aaron and I have had an agreement from the beginning that it will be a film that he can feel good about. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t want it to be a “feel sorry for the cripple” kind of thing.  Nor does he want a moist-eyed “inspirational” piece.  At first it seemed like a tricky line to walk, but the more I got to know him, the more I realized that Aaron just being Aaron is going to be story enough. But if if there’s not at least a little inspiration and maybe a tear or two in the story of Aaron and his family, it will be my fault as a filmmaker, because everyone who knows Aaron is both inspired and full of admiration for this wacky guy.

Yes, Aaron . . . there will be a film.  And no, I won’t ask you to take your clothes off.

Here’s a 4:26 clip of Aaron and some of his friends and family that will give you a little idea of who he is. (This is an expanded and re-edited version of the video clip in the original posting.)