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bliss flowers gardens Long Island Iced Teas

Feeling All Oogie Inside, with Nary an Assist from Mr. Daniels, Mr. Jack Daniels

It’s a little sobering to realize that my advancing age means I get as excited about flowers and gardens as I used to get about a Long Island Iced Tea. The bliss formerly proffered by a glass containing shots of tequila, rum, gin, triple sec, vodka, and a widdle splash of Cocoa-Cola is now matched, shot for shot, by nasturtiums, shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, salvia, and zinneas.

I’ve always been a cheap date, but it seems I’ve downgraded to a status fondly known amongst empty-walleted Johns as “free.”

But check it, Zeppo:


We put in this garden a couple of summers ago, and now it owns me. I hover around this garden like Perez Hilton around Zac Efron–all hepped up and fawning in a way that exceeds anything rational. But look, honeys: those tall purple salvia in the front? We started them from seeds last April. Now look how they’ve grown up and are taking care of us in our dotage. Plus, for fun, we can call them “salivas.” Now that’s a flower that gives and then gives some more.


Garden Zac is just as attractive in the sideview, eh? You know you rather want those scarlet snapdragons (also started from seed) to reach out and nip you in the privates.

In the expanded profile, you can see how we, in a step towards de-Clampettification, had the house painted this summer. Gone is the lead-laden paint of 1934. Me brane radder mees it.

Just as good is the crazy shade garden that is lush with moistness, thriving sans sunlight, much like Dita Von Teese.

Remember my old pal and favorite tool–no, not Andrew Dice Clay–but the mattock? I dug and I dug and I dug, and then I laid down and cried, and then I squared my shoulders and dug some more, and then I played Freecell, and then I dug until a single cow came home, and then I slaughtered and butchered and grilled it, all while still digging. Oh, Poopsie, didn’t I dig. Eventually, I had made a gloriously large trench out back, one that awaited Groom’s overlay of pavers. Last week, when the family was staying down in St. Paul for the week, His Groomitude took the bus back to Duluth a couple of days early, just so he could pave for two days straight. But now we have a red brick road, which makes me want to dance down it with Diana Ross, each of us in search of a heart.

Near the new pathway, sunflowers flourish, amidst zinneas that are 2.5 feet tall. Hey, all of you urban types? If, next time you’re shooting the breeze with your co-workers in those painful five minutes before the meeting starts, you want to sound well-versed in subjects beyond how hot the city gets in August, try bringing up the fact that you once saw a 2.5-foot tall zinnea. It’s awe-inspiring enough to stop that blowhard Cavendish short, just as he’s launching into another tale of “my amazing sub par 18-holes last weekend.” Here’s the plan: the second you hear him mention the golf course, you start sputtering about gargantuan zinnias. At the very least, everyone in the room will be so bewildered, they’ll shut the hey up for once.

Increasing my bliss is the development of new gardens (the spot featured here is where the tree that blew down in a huge windstorm last year used to be rooted; we had a pile of woodchips that needed moving and a ton of compost and trench-remnant dirt to spread, and Little Mound here has pitched in with the effort). This gardeninal development was only made possible by my sainted aunt and uncle, who have these past few days kindly included our kids in their annual Camp Grandma and Grandpa Too week at their lake home. While the kids make tie-dyed pillowcases and eat one-too-many Little Smokies, Groom and I have been savoring the rare and wondrous phenomenon known as Being Alone in the House. Before knuckling down on the toting around of dirt and compost, we took a day for an extended date (not so free), during which, and do read into this as much as you like, GutterHeads, I ate all sorts of beef tips.

All that broken-up former sidewalk that we sledge-hammered to make room for the new pavers? They’ve become garden castle walls, ready to shelter new shade perennials. By the way, if anything on my blog ever offends you, I urge you to be the first to cast a stone; we always need more to ring the forts of flowers. Huck away, Sawyer.


With edible flowers growing on the deck, any salad is just a clipping away from pizazz. So says Gordon Ramsey. Except he says, “Fuck all of you idiotic fuckers if you don’t know to put a fucking nasturtium on a fucking even-an-idiot-could-do-it dinner salad.”

With gardens built, and Groomeo off at his slushy “I need a job outside of the house to go to occasionally, lest I stab the children” retail gig, I’ve admired the flowers again before heading inside to download new tunes, work on getting Fall term classes ready, and, in general, squeeze every last bit of succulence out of

a free date with myself.

(yea, GutterHeads, I hear ya).

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cheese curds college Frank Gehry Long Island Iced Teas

That Michelangelo: Some Sort of Mutant Turtle, Right?

I have profound deficiencies in my knowledge of art. Sure, I recognize dogs playing poker when I see them, but beyond that, my high-priced liberal arts education is artistically pockmarked. Certainly, I can enjoy the shadows of Rembrandt. I groove on the dribs and drabs of Pollock. I’ve even heard of that DaVinci dude (it took a group of Navaho speakers to break his code, right?). But I lack a comprehensive, well-developed overview of art.

This, I blame on cheese curds. And Long Island Iced Teas.

See, when I hied off to college and could have enrolled in and attended a host of mind-expanding art classes, I was otherwise occupied. As a Montanan transplanted to the Midwest, I was too busy taking my first delectable, delicious, delicate bites of deep-fried cheese castoffs to sit in a darkened room taking notes about delectable, delicious, delicate brushstrokes put to canvas three hundred years before. At the age of 18, I wanted the immediate, in-the-moment, contemporary gratification of the crisp-but-melty cheese curd. Once the curds were swallowed, I headed not to a class on masterworks; rather, with my digestive system well-protected by a coating of grease, I headed next door to the town bar for its Wednesday night tribute to the perspicacity that is rum, vodka, tequila, gin, triple sec, all capped by a splash of cola: the Long Island Iced Tea.

Frankly, I was too busy bringing on heart disease and killing brain cells to consider how Chinese sculpture might have toppled a dynasty.

So I’m a little dumm about art junk stuff.

Imagine, then, what a revelation Frank Gehry was to me last year, when I toddled in to the couch and turned on the tv, balancing on my arm the adult version of curds and Tea : a glass of wine and some pita chips and hummus. At that moment, PBS was broadcasting a documentary entitled SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY. With my hands too full to turn the channel, I had no choice but to sit down and swoon into the rapture of his work.

Who the frick knew? Who knew, I ask you?

Okay, as it turns out, a large part of the populace knew and is well acquainted with Gehry, as he’s one of the most-ballyhooed modern American architects. His work is big-time stuff around the world. I can hear you “fa-fwa-fooing” now about how you’ve been versed in Gehry since your cloth-diapered Mother Goose years.

I, however, had spent my formative years with my head too deeply dropped into the works of Pearl S. Buck…and then into a bottomless cup of five-shots-of-booze…to have any idea that a guy was out there, coming up with such visions, and getting paid to produce them.


And really, that’s the part that continues to inspire a certain faith: Gehry has created a very singular vision, one outside of traditional form, and people with money have gone for it. I’m not at all used to people with money putting their dollars behind ground-breaking, convention-flaunting ideas.

I, for example, once pitched a “rolling Halloween pumpkin, for when the candy outweighs the kid” to Proctor & Gamble, and they laughed me out of the conference room. I’d even bought a new black pencil skirt for the presentation, but they didn’t so much as compliment me on it as they showed me the door, those corporate rat bastards.

My resulting cynicism lumped out-of-the-box thinkers like Jocelyn and Frank into the same Pile of Woeful Neglect (we’re located, in the card catalogue, just after the Pile of Wondrous Nightshades).

And yet that PBS documentary reminded me that sometimes, in this world where big money generally fuels sure bets and more of the sames, the deep pockets can open up for genius and awe.

And on days when I cannot breathe due to the frustration I feel about our president,

Or I am tempted to wrap my fingers around the throat of a bully who has called my 4-year-old Niblet “ugly” and “fat,”

Or I mourn that my students at the college have never left Minnesota, even though we live a 10-minute drive across a bridge from the next state,

Or I keen for parents standing at the open graves of their fallen children, having to close out the sounds of protesters chanting and holding signs about “Fags in the Military,”

Or I rage when the best people I know have their hearts ripped open by failed love,

Or I see The Backstreet Boys on Jay Leno,

I find solace in the knowledge that an artist like Frank Gehry not only exists but is rightfully heralded for designs that push us all out of the safe and easy.

Let’s raise and clink our curds in his honor.

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