20 February, 2017

MN Monday #2: Burn the Ships

We pulled out of Raleigh, NC on June 25th, 1997. Jonathan and I were in my car and mom and dad in his truck.  They were pulling the U-haul trailers I had rented.  There was stuff piled in my car, in the trailer, and in the bed of the truck.  We were good to go.  The plan was to take 3 days to drive the ~21 hours to Minneapolis.  Mom and dad would drive back the 29th and we'd spend a few nights in a hotel before moving into our new place on the 1st. Simple.

Yeah, right.  Remember the story of how the vikings would burn their ships when they landed someplace? Conquer or perish, with no chance for retreat.

I'm pretty sure we were somewhere in West Virginia, going up and down mountains in Appalachia, when my car's head gasket blew.  We were lucky that the engine kept running long enough to reach the top of that hill where there was a gas station.  We pulled off and realized there was nothing for it.  We offloaded everything out of the car into the trailer or the truck.  Dad talked to the owner of the station and arranged to leave the car there and he'd come back to pick it up and tow it back home to sell.  Fine.  All taken care of.

Except that dad's truck was a two-seater...  So what choice did we have?  Jonathan and I joined the remainder of our belongings in the back of the truck.  It's like the south was getting one last dig in before I escaped, forcing me to enter Yankee territory like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies.  We spent the rest of the day riding in the back of the truck, all the way to Indiana.

At which point we were saved from our predicament by my dad's truck deciding to drop its transmission on the highway, south of Indianapolis.  We managed to get a tow truck to drag us to a shop and hotel.  In the dark of late evening, we rolled into Seymore, IN where we would be marooned for 2-and-a-half days.

The next morning, dad set about pulling some kind of success out of the wreckage of this trip.  He knew a guy in NC who agreed to drive to IN and pick up his truck to tow back.  We set to looking for a U-haul truck to pull the U-haul trailer the rest of the way to MN.  We finally found one, seems like it was the only one in town - a 15' truck to pull a 10' trailer.  At least we'd have plenty of space.

Dad's friend arrived on our second day in Seymore.  He and his some had driven straight through from Asheville and they were going to hook up dad's truck, turn right around and head back.  And mom was going with this so she could make it back in time for something she had going on.  (She wouldn't actually set foot in Minnesota until 2007 when she visited Jacob and me with my Uncle Bruce.)  Once they left it took another day to get the truck squared away and then dad, Jonathan, and I set out for MN.

We made the entire rest of the way from south of Indianapolis, past Chicago, all the way to St. Paul in one very long day. I think we arrived at the hotel about 2 in the morning on July 1st. We checked in, slept, and got dad in a taxi to the airport to fly home bright and early (later) that morning.

Driving an enormous truck and trailer combo into downtown Minneapolis, right to Loring Park where we have to try and find a way to unload was not the way I envisioned things happening.  We ended up driving around until we found a grocery store with a large enough parking lot where we could take everything out of the trailer and put it all into the truck.  That meant we could go drop off the trailer and only have to maneuver the giant truck behind the apartment building where we could access the freight elevator.  No problem.

Of course, the afternoon of July 1, 1997 saw tornado sirens and one of the year's most serious thunderstorms.  But then, what could have been more appropriate?

Yep, all the boats got burned.  Even before we got to shore.  So it's a good thing that what I found here was My Place (tm).  Nothing more, nothing less.

14 February, 2017

Can't Get Over Her

My nephew is distressed that he's still
in love with the girl who went back to her boyfriend—
the one who's not good enough for her.

When he ran into her again, she had that same bright laugh,
like the shine on an apple, and the wind rose
reaching up into the limbs and fluttering
the leaves in the whole apple tree.

But when she left, it hit him all over.
She was headed for her boyfriend's house, she'd walk
quickly in the brittle March night.
He'd have a fire going. She'd unlace her boots
and offer him her mouth, her lips still cold,
velvet tongue warm in that satin cape.

He didn't tell me all this,
of course, but who hasn't longed
for that girl? that boy? He's mad
at himself that he can't get over her.

He's young and he's got goals, quit
smoking, gave up weekend drunks. Now he tackles
model airplane kits, one small piece at a time.
He wants to learn mastery. Sweet man.
Should we tell him the truth?

That he'll never get over her. Love
is a rock in the surf off the Pacific. Life
batters it. No matter how small it gets
it will always be there—grain of sand
chafing the heart. I still love

the boy who jockeyed cars, expertly
in the lots on New York Avenue,
parking them so close, he had to lift his lithe body
out the window those sultry August afternoons.

He smelled of something musky and rich—distinctive
as redwoods in heat.

I still long for him
like a patriot exiled from the motherland,
a newborn switched in the hospital, raised
in the wrong family. Each year that passes
is one more I miss out on. His children
are not mine. Even their new
step-mother is not me. When she complains

how hard she tries, how little they appreciate it,
I think how much better off he'd be with me.
And when he has grandchildren
they won't be mine either. And when he's dying—
even if I go to him—I'll be little more
than a dumb bouquet, spilling my scent.

We don't get over any of it. The heart
is stubborn and indefatigable. And limitless.
That's how I can turn to my beloved, now,

with the awe the early rabbis must have felt
opening the Torah. And when she pulls me to her,
still, after all these years, I feel like I did
the first time I stood in front of Starry Night.

I had never known, never imagined
its life beyond the flat, smooth surface
of the textbook. Had never conceived
there could be these thick swirls of paint,
the rough-edged cobalt sky, the deep 
spiraling valleys of starlight.

Ellen Bass

13 February, 2017

MN Monday #1

Twenty years....
I came to Minnesota July 1st, 1997 which means that this July 1st I will have lived here for 20 years.  So over the next 20 weeks, I'm going to publish a picture and/or a memory of my time becoming a Minnesotan.  These aren't necessarily going to be the biggest, most important things that happened in a particular year (although some of them will be).  They are just a way for me to celebrate my adopted home and the life that I've built here.

The left image is May 1997.  I had graduated and was working the first part of the summer at the Physics prop shop creating digital images of a bunch of laboratory instrumentation.  Presented with a digital camera opportunity, even in the stone age, naturally a selfie emerged...  The right one is the end of January 2017, just a few weeks ago.  Random Tuesday morning video conference call.  So... yeah selfie opportunity...  
Looking at them side by side... wow.  Separated by a dozen or more lifetimes but some things really do persist.