After filing about 760 consecutive weekly columns, it is necessary for me to take a hiatus––not because I am tired, or have run out of wind. No, I am off on a new venture which requires me to suspend the column for a time.
Another baseball season begins with nobody, including myself, expecting much of our Minnesota Twins. The satellite dish company sends a nice letter every three days urging me to hook the dish back up for a reduced rate. If they had given me the same reduced rate last August, I might have made it through the Twins dismal season without disconnecting.
Eleven years ago, I spent a September in Europe. First, I took the train around England. The countryside is “lovely,” as the Brits say, groomed and prim. Then across France, Switzerland and Italy.
If ever there was a winter to miss, this was the one. Arriving home the second week of March means I get to experience a little of the fun, anyway. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Do I miss anything at all about a northern Minnesota winter? Open questions, both. However, this trip home featured a lucky stop which made the arrival back in cold country much easier.
It’s not just the kids. Last week, I observed an retired Midwestern gentleman walking his golden retriever near the beach. I heard his phone beep. A text message had arrived. He pulled off the sidewalk, dug out his phone, and sat on a bench. As he read the message, he absent-mindedly draped the end of the leash over his leg. As he struggled to tap out a message on the screen with his dairy-farmer thumbs, the leash fell to the ground.
We in the Upper Midwest see Southern California through the lens of television, and frankly, what we often see are a bunch of flakes. On the ground in Southern California, the reality is, yes, people here are unleashed from the constraints we feel back home. And good for them. I think it has to do with the proximity to the beach. Think about how people act on July 4 at the lake.
Yes, a person can get homesick every now and then when gone south for the winter. But there is a cure: call home. Doesn’t matter who. Just call any number in the 218 or 701 area code. Listen to the desperation, the depression, the rage on the other end. Feel the subzero cold pour through the speaker of the phone. Feel the desire to go home evaporate. Rents skyrocket in Tucson in February, so I moved onward to the south California coast to see what has drawn twenty million others to the area. At random, I chose the coastal village of Carlsbad between San Diego and Los Angeles.
Businesses in Watertown, Wisconsin are working to make life easier for a vulnerable portion of their population: those with dementia. Unfortunately, a diagnosis of dementia often results in shame and stigma. It should not. Those diagnosed early in the progress of the disease can live productive and happy lives for years with just a little help. For the community to help, they need to know how.
While in Arizona, I have my own private Minister of Culture, my cousin Tina of Scottsdale. In the past weeks, we have visited two art exhibits and the botanical gardens.
The Reid Park Zoo in downtown Tucson celebrated the birth of a baby tapir a couple of weeks ago. The tapir is an endangered and bizarre creature from South America. It looks like a pig with an elephant’s trunk, but it is related more to rhinos and horses than pigs. It uses its mini trunk to pull up plants for food. A while back, zookeepers brought in a male tapir from another zoo to impregnate Mama tapir. Although the breeding was successful, the pair’s relationship was rocky.