Friday, September 27, 2013

Off to a new home.

I said there was another blog coming. This time I’m dropping the anonymity. I’m in the bright, clean sunlight, along with the wife. I hope you’ll follow me over there, cause I won’t be coming back here except in that way you visit a childhood home – no longer lived in, full of memories you treasure, but in the end, not where you are anymore.

Follow me and wife at

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Amnesty and Rebuke at Caribou Coffee

Wife is spending her last week of unemployment getting ready for the holiday weekend and the upcoming shift in household duties. She's been doing dishes and laundry like a champ lately since she's been home and the place looks amazing for probably the last time in a while once we are both working all the time. Yesterday, she went to the dreaded Target to pick up things we had been running short on for months due to unemployment. Today she stopped at the grocery store and went to get some work shoes since hers are all shot.

During this, she got in a car accident.

Everyone's OK, so no worries.

She was stopping at the Caribou Coffee drive through in Medina for a pick me up and was waiting in the drive through line to order when the car in front of her started reversing. It bumped into her before she could react.

Wife got out, and two young teen girls pop out of the other car. The rider takes over talking, she says her friend literally got her license today, and they were going through the drive through for the first time. The driver was not talking, but clearly just to keep from crying.

Wife: "Well, let's see about any damage!"

They look over the car, my Pontiac Bonneville '99, which is a piece of shit car that got a death sentence 2 years ago and somehow keeps on kicking. Nothing seemed amiss. Wife called me to make sure and let me know she was fine. I said, what the hell, it's a crap car, even if it had a dent, no biggie, we're just driving it to death at this point. No need to do the insurance bull crap.

Wife told the teens that ordinarily they would trade insurance, numbers, etc. But no harm no foul. And then she said probably the best thing a new teen driver could hear: "Well, you got the first accident out of the way already, so now you can quit worrying about it!"

If there is an antagonist in this story, it's the Caribou Coffee employee who came out, not to check that everyone was OK, but to tell wife and the teen to get out of the drive through (though there was no one waiting behind them). So congrats to Caribou for probably making a new driver's first drive through experience with anyone rather crappy. There's one customer with a lot of life ahead of her that won't be coming back anytime soon.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wife Got a JOB!!!

Pure Joy

Wife got a JOB!! 

That's right. 

Wife is now employed. In one week, in fact, she's gone from unemployed to having a full time and a part time job. The place she was volunteering at by helping with their marketing, media and grants, loved her so much they wanted to start paying her. So on Monday, she agreed to being on contract for 55 hours a month. There was a lot of negotiation, they wanted to have her part time for 20 hours a week, but it just wasn't going to be enough to pay the student loans and wouldn't have left her open enough for full time work. It is a HARD choice to make. 

So that happened, then by today, she had two jobs that she had interviewed at that said they would let her know this week. At noon, one called, the one that's just 5 minutes away, and offered her the job. Full time for a marketing company. 

"Yes yes yes yes yes," she said to every question. After a minute, "You know, I need to calm down a bit, I've said yes to you more than I did to my husband when he proposed." 

This is what that feels like: 

She then called me at work. 

"I got hired," the words nearly choked her as she tried to spit them out. Then she proceeded to sob incomprehensibly for two minutes while I calmly tried to ascertain which company hired her (the other one emailed to say they would not be able to choose until Monday as they had a scheduling problem with one candidate). I finally got it out of her.

"Come home" she said. And I told my boss and got the OK to go home and start feeling human again.

Pure bliss

I got home, and together we drained a bottle of Friday's long island iced tea and half a big bottle of wine. She was drunk by 5 and asleep by 6. 

Her search started in full a year ago at about this time when her former boss said she wasn't allowed to keep herself safe after a student threatened her - plus working with mice and bats doesn't help matters. She worked with me for 5 months which got her away from that, but has had nothing since March 1.

As an idea what it's like out there: Since May 23, we have sent out 174 resumes. We erased the records from before that because it was just too depressing to scroll through. I sent out six applications on my birthday. She was getting about 3-5 contacts a week - either phone, in person, or recruiters if they count during the past several months. We just needed one yes. And we finally got it!

On another note

You may have noticed the number of blogs trailing off lately. Well, applying to 4-5 jobs a day kind of curtails one's time to do things they enjoy, like writing. Plus I've been writing some art reviews for another publication, and that takes some time. But now I can also make another announcement.

Wife and I will be starting a new blog!

We've been working on it for about a month, banking posts ready to go.

I started Myths of the Midwest in 2011 to help myself stay sane. It has been pretty much a chronicle of wife and I as we struggled out of a crushed dream of a doctorate for her and the rather constant struggle of finding our place in the working world. I appreciated everyone who read it. I enjoyed sharing some of the more insane things that happen from time to time in my awkward life. I also got to share getting engaged and married and the first year of married life. It was a vent and served its purpose well, though it never really caught on much.

The new blog will be a lot of the same topics, but more ordered into categories to share actual tips and empathy to job seekers, notes about writing and advertising, and posts about the things we enjoy about life in the cities. It'll be our calling card for potential freelancing jobs, and now that we're both finally, solidly employed and hopefully getting by through the next year of taking care of shit that's been squeaking by like the fact wife has no work clothes beyond her interview suit, my car is on life support, hers needs brakes, and a ton of other stuff that you have to put off just so you can eat.

The new blog is in the design phase - utilizing some friends we've picked up along the way and their wonderful talents. The nice thing is it won't have to be anonymous. We'll be ourselves and try to bring the funny and the frustrating. I hope you'll join us. It's probably a month off yet or more considering web design can be a bitch, but consider this a teaser. I'll send a heads up when it gets going. Thank you for reading, it meant everything.

Fargo Jones

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Minnesota Opera Under the Stars (with racism?)

Tonight the wife and I took in a free public performance of the Minnesota Opera company at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. We got there about 70 minutes before the curtain, which was enough time to get to the back of the first hill of people.

If you plan to attend an event like this at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, and you are a guy, be sure you don't drink much all day, cause while there is a women's room, the only facilities for men in sight are unisex family bathrooms. Luckily, I was in a good way tonight, which isn't usual for me. TMI.

What really got my knickers in a bunch, though, was the group parked right in front of us. This was wife's view of the stage.

Apparently the Phi Beta Kappa Twin Cities Association was meeting up at this Opera event, and they wanted EVERYONE to know, especially the people behind them. I told wife not to worry, surely they would take it down when the opera began. At 15 minutes to showtime, I went to find out that there were no designated men's facilities, and waited in line for the "family bath" rooms. There are so many things wrong with calling a room the "family bath" room, but let's leave that one alone. 

When I got back to wife, she relayed the following to me. 

Two guys, obviously college students, perhaps grad students, who spoke with thick accents, from somewhere where soccer and cricket are likely popular, asked the guy by the sign "I want to know, if we sit over there or here, will you take the sign down when the event starts?" The first guy ignored them. They moved on to the guy standing up by the sign and asked the same question. The standing up guy said "no matter where you sit, you won't be able to see the stage anyway, so it doesn't matter." 

The two guys walked away. Another college aged girl carrying a Barnes and Noble bag, long dark curly hair, comes over and points to the sign. The guy starts to get defensive. She asks "are you the Phi Beta Kappa group?" He says "yes." She says "I'm here for you." he changes demeanor completely into Nice Guy Ned. He makes room for her, offers her a cookie and stuff to sign. 

Then a woman in pink comes and asks if he's the Phi Beta Kappa group, as if the sign isn't RIGHT THERE.

This woman, the one wearing pink and a hat: 

They make room for her. then they discuss what happened with the sign. She said: "Good for you, you want to make sure that they know their place." 


Now, I can't say if this was a racist comment, or a class-based comment. In any stretch of the imagination, it wasn't a comment that can be painted over with some easy explanation unless she has a really dry sense of humor that makes no one laugh. But perhaps that comes from being part of a honor society that makes you feel superior to other people. 

.Anyway, racist/classicist/classist(?) groups aside, I assured wife that I would step up to the plate and be an ass if I needed to be. The music began, and the sign wasn't going down. After a few measures, and a tweet, I  said rather loudly "Hey, Phi Beta Kappa, could you take down your sign now?" the guy turned and looked at me, blinked, probably gauging if I could see the stage if he moved the sign, and moved to take down the sign. I thanked him "thank you very much." and we moved into the Opera. 

They put the sign up again at intermission, and had to be verbally reminded again to please take it down thank you very much.

The concert was of "La Boeheme" a story of a group of friends at the end of the 19th Century who party hard, fall in love, and lose love to consumption. If you have seen "Rent" you know all the basic beats of the plot and characters. Me, I had an unhealthy obsession with Rent in high school, so reading the synopsis before the opera began I felt like I was treading on familiar ground. 

The music was rather hard to hear at times, even though we were closer than half the people attending. Though there were microphones around the stage, they weren't used by individual performers. Only when people really belted out an aria's glory notes would the audience really get excited, partly because of the beauty of the music, but also partly because they could actually hear it. 

I loved the introduction of love in the first act, signaled wonderfully by the light, romantic turn in the music, and aided by the diving sparrows around the park as they hunted bugs in the pink, Minnesota dusk. The setting was lovely, the picnic wife made of bagels with cream cheese and turkey was divine, and the whiskey and ginger drinks we brought in a thermos the shiny cap on a wonderful event. Wife took this picture of the feet of someone who knew exactly how to enjoy this time.

I'd entirely recommend going to such free opera in the park events, but be sure to get their plenty early to get good seats, hopefully not behind haughty signage.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Edina Art Fair

On Sunday, I got wife up after finishing my weekend editing job. It felt like giving my executioner the syringe, after filling it and spiking a vein. It was the dreaded Edina art festival.

The festival so big we parked a mile away and took the bus they had just for this event.

This sort of crowd is my nightmare. It's also interesting to count how many 
people will look at a camera in a crowd in you hold it over your head.

The first few booths near the bus did not portend well. Filled with enormous, like ridiculously enormous metal animals that moved. I couldn't see this sort of thing working anywhere except a school maybe, if they could get the safety permits.

And the next booth had what I would definitely categorize as a "craft" in that it sucked. I don't see the difference between this and a kid's store.

But then things turned around. They started turning at the booth of Bob Wilfong, whose bronze sculptures were accompanied by poems. These sculptures were colorful and exuded a peaceful vibe that was hard to ignore. It made me feel a bit less crabby and able to start enjoying the art fair. 
Pictures just don't do this justice, much like any really interesting art. You can see more of it here, but I'm telling you, the way the colors shimmer in the light, and undertones seem to float beneath the surface of the bronze, it's just magic. 

Here's some other booths that caught my attention: 

 I love the way these mechanical people are crammed to the brim with personality. Somehow they break through the "Craft" designation I've created in my head and cross the line into, if not art, interesting.

Also, there were a lot of photography booths filled with highly photoshopped pieces ready to print and sell, which annoys me for some reason even though I know people gotta make a living. But this photo place caught my attention. They don't photoshop, they shoot with the full moon, and they use color strobes to paint interiors of long-forgotten buildings on little traveled highways. Seriously, tour their site, it's pretty cool. They are newcomers on the art fair scene, so keep an eye out. I think they got an award at the Edina fair. For some reason, I don't like to take pictures of photography, so you'll have to look them up.

I also wrote down Abby Lingle Pottery in my notebook, but can't remember why. The pottery on her site is pretty dang slick though.

Truthfully, there was a lot of good work going on at this fair, much more so than the previous day's excursion. But the environments couldn't be more different. Whereas the small fair on Saturday was in a clearly welcoming neighborhood, Wife and I couldn't help but feel out of place in this Edina hotspot. Edina is one of the most affluent suburbs of Minnesota, and the surrounding shops, none of which wife or I could afford to frequent ever, made us feel rather small and unwelcome, like a mechanical robot hanging on a wall just looking for some acceptance. As we took a breather, I mentioned that for a while, I was worried about losing my wallet to a pickpocket in this crowd, but then I remembered I was wearing a Doctor Who shirt and we were surrounded by people wearing suit vests. I was not the preferred target of anyone looking to score by pickpocketing.

Also, there was a booth where you could win 3,000 dollars worth of plastic surgery. That says a lot about Edina.

Wife felt it too, and said one of the best things I've ever heard he say "I think this summer project might backfire. I'm going to start hating these things as much as you if we keep this pace up."

We didn't buy anything this time cause we're broke as shit again until wife lands her job. So we were looky-loos, which is fine by me. After the food we got, we went home with 36 bucks to our name until Wednesday when wife's unemployment came in again. Yay capitalism.

Before boarding the bus to get back to our car, we stopped at a lemonade stand and a food stand for something called "the Fonz" burger. It had cheese curds on it. CHEESE CURDS. We also got cheese curds as a side.  And yes, that menu says they have an item called the DEUCE. Naming your fries after what is also a common term for private business is not the best idea, folks.

Cheese curds, and bacon, on a burger. Is this heaven?

2013 Lemonade count: 5
2013 Cheese Curd Tally: 2.5 (cause the burger had some)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

St. Anthony Art Festival

Today we spent about 2 hours continuing our summer of craft experiment. Part one here. While the Edina Art Fair is going on, and it's billed as Minnesota's second largest art fair, we decided to take our chances with a smaller event.

The St. Anthony Art Festival on Como Ave. in St. Paul keeps things small - 80 artists in all. After our time at the last event - the American Craft Council Show - this one was a huge step down the crap hole in quality.

After parking the car and walking back to find wife, I passed a few booths. This one caught my eye.

I found wife and told her about the booth full of pottery that resembled birch trunks. 

"Birch pottery? This is what someone dedicated her life to?" I said. 

"Let's try positive husband," wife responded.

I'd like to say things got positive, but they didn't. We were done with half the art booths in 20 minutes. Wife's eye was caught by a few things, but usually the people in the booths would turn her off. One woman was selling necklaces, and we overheard her explaining the significance of salt and pepper shakers on the necklace as black slavery items. From what I could gather, white guilt was her selling point, but then I wondered what you do when you get home or wear it out later. "Nice necklace!" "Yeah! And it reminds me of how horribly we treated fellow human beings!"

But really, I need to be more positive. What did I like? I liked the atmosphere. Although the booths were sparse, and the quality of items circumspect, and the booth merchants overzealous (one calling out that she had my wife's size in clothing), the neighborhood was pleasant. I could imagine living there. Lots of old trees, bike paths, cute shops and access to the basic needs. And a nifty old library that was benefiting from the fair. It'll be under renovation starting Monday, but they had a used book sale. 
The book sale was pretty packed, but I nabbed a few choice books for the summer's reading. I got a historical fiction trilogy by Norwegian Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset, an early book by J.M. Coetzee and a John LeCarre novel. All for 6 bucks. 

We also stopped in a small wine shop, very small, like European shoppe small, but nice. We're drinkin' wine tonight!

By this point, wife's morning caught up with her. I had woken and done my normal morning routine of eating cereal. Wife, however, wanted to just get going, so she skipped breakfast, took some meds, and had half an energy drink on the way to the event. This led to feeling crappy. 

We got some fresh squeezed lemonade (which by the way is my favorite thing at any fair outside of turkey legs, and I will keep a running tally of our lemonade purchases over the summer on this blog). The lemonade didn't do the trick. Getting wife to make any sort of decision during such events just leads to frustration on her part and mine. "Do you want to sit?" "Um." "OK, how about I get a gyro?" "Or we could go to that cafe." "Sure." "But I don't know."

Eventually, we stopped at a food truck for spicy cheese curds, which wife could handle about four of before they became too much. We also found some mini cookies, but she didn't like them either. Food at this fair was difficult to say the least.

They also had activities for the kids. One such activity was helping kids to make their own pottery complete with clay and wheel. Sounds fun, but when you take a second to think, there's no way they have a kiln available or the time needed to complete the process, right? Right. This became apparent to parents after the fact. While I was getting some stuff back to the car to be less burdened, wife overheard this one between a man and wife who's young son was carrying around his newly created clay pot. 

"So, what are we gonna do with a bunch of wet clay?"

I also need to mention the abundance of lutes and mandolins. I swear to Christ every one who plays lutes in Minnesota outside of Ren Fest was at this thing. Now, I think it's great for lute and mandolin players to have a place to perform, where they can feel safe from the years of bullying, but you just can't unhear Beatles tunes being PBS-ified to death by straining them through a mandolin quartet. 

This guy was good though. 

Could be that he was playing a Greek bouzouki though, a point of order he made sure to note. 

I was not alone! Wife was severely disappointed at the quality of this fair. We were not 4 booths into our second half of the 80 art booths when I swear to god I heard our future selves behind us. A woman was saying to her husband "Do you think you could be more positive?" and the husband was saying "Maybe." 

Seriously though, I haven't described it well, but this fair felt like the castoffs of Minnesotans who couldn't get into the Edina fair. It's just not worth describing and I don't have the energy to do so beyond one more. 

We walked quickly past, but it was a booth of drawings and copies of those drawings, intricate pencil pieces of people. The elderly woman at the booth was busy arranging the pieces. You couldn't help but notice that she had talent. The pieces were intricate, but unsettling, like she was going for R. Crumb, but not on purpose. You felt bad for her, to have so much talent, but not quite enough to be really good, and knowing she was old enough that it wasn't likely to be a matter of needing more practice. 

At this point, wife said to go get the car. She looked ready to faint, so I found her a chair and went back to the car, passing by a booth full of homemade beanie babies and groaning while at it. 

While I was getting the car, wife heard this passive aggressive conversation take place behind her by a woman with a small child. 

"Oh, I just wish I could get a chair her so my child can sit down for a bit."

Aimed. Right. At. Her. 

Wife did get up eventually, but the woman is seriously lucky she didn't drop kick that kid. Wife has been known to shove misbehaving kids out of her way in public restrooms (she came charging out that time, grabbed my arm, and said "We must GO now" and we hightailed it out of the restaurant.) We're not kid people, and on top of that, we're not fans of people who feel their children should be entitled to everything at the expense of others. 

Tomorrow, if we can stomach another outing, we're going to the Edina Art Fair. Pray for us. 

2013 Lemonade Tally: 3

2013 Cheese Curd Tally: 1

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Awkward Hairdresser Conversations

I used to be of the "cheapest is best" style of hair person. I would go to whatever CostClips I could find every four months or so and have them cut the shit out of my hair.

That changed with wife.

"You're an adult now, you should have an adult haircut."

Fair point, I figure. I have a weird shaped head with a bald spot on one temple and a knob of a skull in back, so it was always a crapshoot weather the latest haircut would accommodate these things or just make me look bad for a month while my hair grew out. Like I said, I didn't care for more than 30 years about this. If I could get my hair cut for 10 bucks or less, I didn't care if it looked like it was done by machete.

Now I go to Aveda every three months to wife's hairdresser. They wash my hair as well, which feel really nice on an early Friday morning before work. I still feel like shit for having to spend 40 bucks plus tip on a haircut, but I will admit it looks good every time rather than about half the time. I agree that part of working in the professional world is having a decent haircut. Although the engineers i work with haven't all caught on to this.

I do not have the gift of gab. At gatherings, I sit and listen, sometimes I have a fun anecdote to add, but I dont' know how to barge my way into a conversation and the moment passes onto new topics I know nothing about. With hairdressers, my life has been silent. After the "what do you do" conversation and the "where are you from" bundle of fun, the conversation dies.

Sometimes I just listen to other people talk - about their kids, their lake home renovations, and other things that just make me bored.

Yesterday though, I had the longest conversation ever with the stylist. But we still spent the last 30 minutes in silence.

Here's how it went:

Her: Any plans for the weekend?

Me: Well, we're going to the new Star Trek movie tonight, but that's about it.

Her: I have never seen any of the Star Trek or Star Wars movies or shows.

Me: Wow, I bet you get yelled at all the time when you tell people that.

Her: Yup. People get really angry about it.

Me: People get angry at wife and I when they find out we've never been to the MN state fair.

Her: Are you kidding? You haven't been?

Me: Nope.

Her: That's crazy. You need to go. I go a few times a year.

Me: Well, we have only lived here for one of them, and it was super hot last year.

Her: Doesn't matter. If you are in a five state area, you are obligated.

Me: Well, maybe we'll go. We are going to a lot of craft fairs this summer. I hate craft fairs, but I want to write about them.

Her: I hate craft fairs too. Tree stumps, felt mittens, wind chimes, ugh.

Me: I know.

We shared our mutual loathing of crafts for another couple minutes. And then all was silence.

I thought it was great that she got mad at me for something trivial immediately after implying how weird it was for others to get mad at her for something trivial. Maybe that's why I don't do small talk - I like the clashes sometimes too much.