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.

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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.)