Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mangroves and Water Chops - Initial thoughts on Indonesia

Going from Batam to the local island we were were visiting in Indonesia was an eye-opening experience. The tiny motor boat was quite different than I was expecting, but not unlike my father-in-law's boat in which we fish at White Face.

The pilot did not take the direct route from Batam to the island, though I cannot confirm this observation. It seemed to me that he was taking the route that had the best views of Indo. He showed us the largest ships, the mountainous islands, the most intricate net structures of fishermen, the delicately detailed roots of the mangroves that kept their trees from touching the ocean. It was a fascinating ride.

I noticed the many islands springing out of the water like thousands of moles on an otherwise perfect complexion. Moles that were hairy with trees or so grotesquely misshaped that one should really consult one's doctor about the high probability of skin cancer.

The second thing I noticed was the boater's seamless ability to navigate the waters. In the hour and a half I rode with him, I was splashed once. Maybe twice. He knew just how to ride the choppy waves to make them work for him. He used them to propel us at breakneck speeds down the channels formed by cancer-ridden moles. 

He also drove in tandem with other boaters. Stoney faced, and barely a glance, he would twitch his wrist just enough to avoid catastrophic collisions. The others seemed to hardly notice him, too. It reminded me of a dance. So fluid were the movements - so innately known - that the artists needed no leader. They saw, calculated, adjusted the rudder, and continued the dance. No toe stamping on this dance floor. 

The trees I saw looked like a 17th century lady lifting her skirt and screaming to avoid a mouse running up her dress. The canopy of the tree searched the water wide-eyed, hoping beyond hope that the mouse wouldn't return. There were sometimes clusters of these trees which only enhanced the perception of dainty ladies screeching from fear of nasty little rodents. When they were alone, like the one below, I felt sorry that she didn't have a man to come kill the spider for her, or chase away the rats of the night. I later learned that the mangrove is home to hundreds of species of creepy-crawlies, so my initial assessment was completely erroneous. 

Soon we arrived at the village in question. Our sore backs and jet-lagged eyes could not prepare for the fun that was about to begin. 

Friday, December 6, 2013


After a conversation with my colleague, Adam, my thoughts turned to sounds.
Dogs have super sonic hearing. They can respond to frequencies that are too high pitched for the human ear. What kinds of sounds do they experience?
Perhaps, if we could rein in that hearing energy, magnify it, and convert it into a listenable format for the average human, we would have a brand new territory to explore. A new "last frontier." We could hear plants growing, insects gasping, or water thinking.
Water has been described as the life-giving element. The sustainer which keeps all living organisms afloat. I have heard people say it is patient, strong - almost like it has a mind of its own.
If this is the case, does it have similar insecurities as humans? Do poisoned water holes have a bad conscience? Do rain clouds ask each other if they look fat? Could we hear H2O scream in terror (or perhaps exhilaration) as it careens off the side of a waterfall? Niagra would be the worst vacation destination ever.
What would we hear if we could listen to the life-blood of Earth?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rabid Rabbits

When I was in high school, I was put on a medication to help with stomach issues I was dealing with. The medicine did nothing for my health, but what it did do was to always give me night terrors involving rabbits. These nightmares began in pastels with beautiful scenery where the Easter Bunny would come up and offer me chocolates. When I would refuse them, the dreams would turn very dark and bad things would happen to me at the hands of the bunny. Very gory. Very unpleasant.

This began a terrible relationship I hold to this day with rabbits in general. I have an incurable fear of rabbits, and many of my friends know this about me.

I had a roommate once. Many of you will recognize him as the frontman of Laulu, Everett Laulunen. Everett had the bright idea one morning to wake me up from my slumber by taking a 4 foot tall cardboard cutout of an Easter Bunny, crouching beside my bed and saying in a creepy voice, "Benjamin! Wake up! I want to play with you today!"

I slowly opened my eyes, took one glance at the cardboard rabbit, and punched it square between the eyes. I was not a happy person that morning.

More recently, my wife and I took a late night walk near our apartment building. As we were walking along, a sliver of light from a nearby streetlamp fell on a furry lump on the edge of the sidewalk. Not seeing it for what it was, I came within inches of stepping on a dead rabbit with nothing more than sandals on my feet to protect me from whatever hell the dead animal would release upon me. I am unashamed to say that I screamed like a little girl having her tangled hair brushed fiercely with a fine-toothed comb. Our walk lasted less than a block from our front door before I retreated to the safety of my apartment.

As of late, the evils I have known for many years to exist within these seemingly harmless creatures has been noticed by another, much more powerful entity than myself. It is none other than Hollywood. As far back at 1975, with the release of Monte Python and the Holy Grail, we have been made privy to killer rabbits, but I have seen more and more movies being released with the same premise of rabbits.

Soon after I nearly marred my leg by stepping on the dead rabbit, Dana and I watched the new Lone Ranger movie with her mom. There is a scene with rabbits in it. I will try not to require a spoiler alert for this post, but by the end of the scene, my dear mother-in-law was beside herself with laughter because of the uncanny resemblance of my description of rabbits and the rabbits in said scene.

A similar experience happened when we watched Despicable Me 2 for Dana's birthday.

Soon, valued readers, you too will become wise to the true nature of these pesky demons who roam our streets, thinly veiling their attempts of destroying the human race behind fuzzy whiskers and twitchy noses. I just hope that by the time you do, it's not too late.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So You Think You're Alone?

Something to remember when you're at a resort: even when you think you're alone, you probably aren't.

Dana and I were sitting in the hot tub in Jamaica late at night when the heat was turned down enough to enjoy the warmth of the tub. Granted, we were still in Jamaica, so we could only sit in it for a few minutes before we had to stick our feet in the pool to cool off.

I bought speedos for the trip. Not the tiny kind; they stretched about halfway to my knee. They were tight, though. I was also sitting on concrete. I let out a little fart. Or at least what I thought was going to be a little fart.


It was loud. It was long. It echoed off the walls of the outdoor pool area. Dana was doubled over in laughter.

"What? It's not like anyone heard it. There's no one around!"

"Except that guy on the balcony over there!" she giggled.

"There's nobody on the balcony." I responded, snark dripping off my lower lip. Then I looked to where she indicated.

"Whoa, man, ya just let loose, or what?!" called the nonexistent hoser on the balcony.


"I wasn't sure if that was a fart or something else!"

At which point I felt an urge to refill my drink, leaving my wife at the pool to relish in my embarrassment.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Dana and I went to Jamaica for vacation this spring. While we were there, we decided to go for a walk in Montego Bay. We walked around the bay and watched jumbo jets fly into the nearby airport. We saw the tide come into the beach and seagulls flying around in search of their next meal of seafood. It was hot. The sun was shining and the locals were soaking up their relaxing holiday. It was Labor Day in Jamaica.

We stopped to get refreshing iced coffee from a street vendor who barely understood our English. As we walked away with our dripping drinks, a man approached us.

"Hello my friends! Would you like to smoke some Bob Marley with me?"
"No, thank you, we don't smoke."
"How about some brownies?"
"How about a taxi?"
As we walked away, I thought, "Well that escalated quickly!"

Friday, June 21, 2013

A shot of Brandy

I am at a coffee shoppe filled with beautiful people who are engrossed in their work, engrossed in conversation, and engrossed in their coffee.

I am the one who is engrossed in my work, coffee, and other people's conversations.

Eavesdropping has such negative connotations. Let me reword it to make it sound like a respectable past time.

I am a story teller. This is what I do, and this is how many people know me. I recently wrote a story about a small child and her conversation with her grandmother that I overheard in an airport in Charlotte. Now, "creeping" is not what I do. I study my subjects to be able to tell their story - whether or not they know it.

The ladies next to me were engrossed in their conversation about their loved ones, and I would like to tell you their story.

Marge and Josie haven't seen each other for about three months because Josie's son just got married. Marge had been waiting very patiently for Josie to return Marge's calls, but understood that weddings are a big deal and take a lot of work.

Marge just had to see Josie, though, because her own son started dating a woman who Marge could only describe as a scarlet woman. Josie admittedly laughed Marge's choice of words, but then, putting on a brave face, spoke seriously of the weighty matter.

Marge is a respectable woman, and she has a reputation to uphold. She is in very high standing with her close knit group of church friends, but "Good ***! What will they say to me when they find out?!"

Josie also had a son who went the wayward way shortly after leaving the home, but he turned out alright. Just love him, Marge, everything will be fine.

Marge did not argue with Josie's sage advice, but her anxiety did not wane.

Marge works at her local library and is comfortable in her quiet lifestyle. Her husband rarely makes a fuss at home, and sometimes startles her when he speaks up. She has a nasty habit of forgetting when he's home. He usually works long hours, and her library job is far from full time. She gets to do what she wishes during her alone time.

Jerry is not nearly as concerned of his son's "predicament" (Marge's word) as his dear doting wife is.

"Come off it, Margie. He's a grown man. He can take care of himself."

"But he'll need his mother when this relationship turns south, and I'll be there reminding him of my warnings!"

"Yes, because that will be exactly what he needs at that time" he gushed, sarcasm dripping from his spoon.

Josie was much more understanding than Jerry, but she still gently pressed that Marge may be acting a little on the overbearing side. When I heard that statement, I knew without doubt that I was sitting in a Minnesotan coffee shoppe. We can't be too abrasive when we disagree with someone. It wouldn't be "nice."

The conversation turned to Will and Mary's wedding. It was outdoors, and it rained on them. Other than that, everything went off without a hitch and the ceremony was beautiful. It was the first time Josie had seen her mother-in-law cry. She was far from tears at Josie's wedding, many years ago. She seemed to wear a face of bittersweetness that day. Josie was taking away her youngest son, so the sentiment was almost understandable. It didn't take too long for Martha to accept Josie into the family, thankfully.

Ok, Josie, but back to my son! What am I to do?!

"Take two breaths, a shot of brandy, and get to know your son's girlfriend. You may be pleasantly surprised. I need to get back home now. The garden needs watering."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter's Bane

I believe there is movie of this title that I've not seen. I know absolutely nothing about it, but because the title deals with winter, I believe I will avoid it until the heat of summer.

Today is the coldest day in Minnesota for the past four years. That is significant, and it's bloody cold. As I type this, it is ten-below-zero air temperature, and negative thirty-one with wind chill. This is Minneapolis, folks. We have the "Urban Heat Effect" which basically means we have milder temps than the rest of the state, yet it feels like -31 right now.

Many of you know how much I love the cold. And if you know me at all, you know that I just lied. I can accept 78 degrees, but 95 is where I'm comfortable. That is a 126 degree difference to what the current temperature is.


I have become very good at avoiding the outdoors during the wintertime. I rarely get talked into "playing outside" even for "just a few minutes" because "it's not that cold out!" Because it is that cold out. Believe me.

I am able to comfort myself a little on days like today by reminding myself that every record breaking cold temperature day I spend in Minnesota, is one frigid day closer to moving to warm weather climates where 80 degrees seems a bit nippy.

When I was a little boy, fifty below didn't bother me. I just didn't think about it. I would carry five-gallon buckets of warm water across the yard to my dad's goats in temperatures that would cause frostbite in ten minutes. That was life and that was OK. Then I started traveling and I found places where warm weather was the norm and I fell in love with heat. I was ruined for the cold and I didn't care. I started researching what it would take for me to get back to those countries as quickly as possible.

One of those steps is finishing a bachelor's degree, which will be mine to claim in five short months. I will not make any promises that I will still be living in Minnesota come June.

During my cold weather days, I know what it takes to keep my spirits up. Living in conditions that are less than prime forces you to know yourself in a way that a comfortable lifestyle cannot offer. It is similar to my diet. I have learned so much about myself by restricting what I take in. In the same way, frigid days force me to find healthy ways to function when I just want to hide under my covers until spring comes knocking on my door.

The best thing I can do on days like today is leave my one-room apartment and write. Or hang out with my friends. Today I choose writing. Though this is more of a collection of rambled thoughts than a story, I find solace from the harsh cold in writing it. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Here's a snippet of a project I'm working on:

By Christmas that year, Stephanie had entered into our lives so thoroughly that it seemed obvious that she would spend some of the holiday with us. We planned it that she would come over the day after Graham came home from University. We had our hopes that something would spark between them, but we refused to let on. Graham was smarter than that, though.
“I know what you’re thinking, Mom. You want me to fall in love with your intern just as much as you have.”
“Oh sweetheart, you don’t know that. I just think she’s a sweet girl and you should try to be her friend.”
“Dad is grinning. I know what that grin means. Remember when you wanted me to ‘just be friends’ with the neighbor’s granddaughter? Look how that turned out!”
“Oh don’t be so hard on your mother, Graham. She only has your best interests at heart.”
“If by ‘your best interests’ you mean ‘grandchildren,’ then yes, she has my best interests at heart.”
Ilsa had to leave the room because she didn’t want Graham to see her laughing at him. She had always been a bad liar. I followed her into the kitchen where she confided that she and Stephanie had the same conversation, nearly verbatim, the day before.
“They would be perfect for each other! Look how similar they are!”
“Similar doesn’t always mean perfect, darling. They are young. Let’s just see where the cards land after tonight.”
The doorbell rang a little later. I looked at Ilsa who was just as inquisitive as I was. Stephanie never rang the doorbell. She usually just came barging through the door hollering to see whether or not we were in. I went to answer and sure enough, it was her. She also had two bottles of wine; a deep pinot noir for me and a chardonnay for Ilsa. She had gotten to know us quite well, I thought, and greeted her with a hug.
“Ready?” she asked.
I winked my response and commenced the typical hollering that accompanied her arrival.
“Ilsa! Sarah’s here!”
“I mean Samantha!”
“Oh wait, she says her name is Stephanie!”
“Quit being an ass, Anderson, and let her in!”
I tried not to be blatantly staring at my son the first time he saw her future wife, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t paying any attention to his old man. It was the first time I had seen my son at a loss for words. One more point for the good guy team, I thought. I threw another wink towards my wife who was also not paying attention to her old man. Her face was written with another “I told you so” that she would never voice. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


For me, to write is to breathe.

I have taken a semester off of writing this blog so that I could concentrate on school. You will be happy to know that it paid off. I did very well in school this semester.

I was writing throughout the semester. I had many papers due and one class was strictly a 15 page paper. It was not completely creative, though, and I cannot explain how I've missed writing. Now that I have time to start again, I just can't seem to get back into the groove. Taking so much time off has made me lazy. I have more ideas for excuses to not write than ideas to write about.

For inspiration, I started reading a few classical authors of the same period. I read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatzby. You may claim that I read it in light of the new film that recently hit theaters if you like. That was not the reason, though. I read it because he was an author from St. Paul. I want to know how Mid-Western authors write. The story was, in my opinion, rather drab, though Mr. Fitzgerald's writing style sucked me in. He describes the scenes with such fluency that I could almost taste the setting.

I recently watched Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson. He travels back in time to visit with the expatriate authors of Paris in the 20's. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein are all brought to life through the film. Curious about this part of history, I picked up Hemingway's memoire on the subject. A Moveable Feast is a fascinating read. I am only half way through it right now, but I have gained some much needed inspiration from Hemingway. Reading his other works, one would wonder if he liked anything or anyone, but in this book he goes into detail of his relationships with other writers and of his favorite cafes and restaurants. The man was writing the memoire near the end of his life, which was a very dark period for him, but he was able to look back on the time with happy nostalgia.

He also gives advice to other writers. I don't believe this was on purpose, but he speaks in the second person pulling you into the story. He talks about working (writing at the cafes and at his office) but uses "you." I often think it is me trying to order my second beer and write down the story before the afternoon fades to evening.

He tells me that I should never run my inkwell dry when writing. As in, if I'm writing a story and I have just a little bit more to add before the end of the day, I should leave it as is and come back to it the next day. I should allow the little bit of ink soak overnight; mulling it over in my sleep so I can write even more when I go back to work. Otherwise, with nothing to chew on, there will be nothing to write in the morning.

He also suggests that I not think of the story while it is percolating. I should instead pick up a book of the current authors and see what other people are writing about. This will keep my mind occupied so I don't lose my train of thought, and will keep me up to date with my peers.

This time period was very romantic. Several authors are living cheaply in Paris, reading each other's works and critiquing them. It sounds lovely, though I'm not completely sold. They had hard lives, and everything was not perfect. I guess I would rather have the community they had, without the lifestyle.

These are some tools I have picked up while on hiatus. I hope they will prove useful and helpful and that you will continue to read my musings. Thank you for your patience.