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White Sock With Red Stripe

White Sock with Red Stripe

Sept. 4, 2015

At approximately 9am today and unidentified male threw a suitcase off the rail of the Pedestrian Bridge which crosses over to the airport onto  North Broadway and into the traffic below. He followed his suitcase over the rail and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Is that how it happened?

You saw the guy jump? Jessi, 30-year-old rent-a-car employee -- looks incredulously at the car wash employee from behind the Hertz counter.

The Do-Dah Man! August 28, 2015

The Do-Dah Man

 

Working off a quad injury on the elliptical – third floor – empty gym. Oh, yeah, except for the guy behind me which makes me kind of nervous like I wish there were more mirrors in the gym so I could see what’s going on behind me.  

I got my one hour run playlist playing on my headphones. Runnin’ Down a Dream. I will survive. Jump on top of me baby. Truckin’!

60th Anniversary

60th Anniversary

My father wheezes now –it is sort-of-a deep down in the
lungs hissing, like a train or some white noise that my sister had once mistook
for a radio. This is what is left of his 45 year smoking habit which ended
about 20 years ago – he is 89 years young.

He isn’t as reluctant as he used to be to take your arm when
you walk beside him on uneven terrain. He can’t golf anymore, or read . . . but
the first thing to go was his horseshoe throwing ability. His fingers crippled
in an arthritic freeze – escher-like but not as pretty.  He drops things because he can’t grip. His
fingers fail to grasp and his food often ends up in his lap or on the
floor. 

My mother shaves him, but then she has participated in the
shaving ritual I believe long before he really needed  help shaving. I remember his face dotted with bloody
toilet paper even when I was just a little girl, staring at him in God-like
admiration across the breakfast table.

My mother also cuts his toenails. They are an ungodly shade
of yellow – a shade that would look much prettier on a wall and less pretty as
a growth underneath the bed of the nail of a small pinkie toe.  But then, he has also been fighting this
growth of fungus ever since I can remember. There was always a can of athletes
foot spray near  the base of his lazyboy.
This was the place where he would also kick off his running shoes,  put his feet up and snooze in between golf
tournaments and Laker’s basketball.  My
mom would bring him coffee or  something
cold to drink. A sandwich.  Anything he
wanted because that was what she did in between her 50 hour a week job as a
bank officer,  cooking all our meals,
baking on Saturdays, watching us play basketball and softball. It was just what
she did.  He asked and she served. And
she never complained or asked for anything in return. Even when she lost a
breast to cancer – hours out of the hospital, I imagine her still bringing him
his sandwich and a glass of cold lemonade. Maybe not.

But the thing I notice more than anything else on this trip
– this trip to Mesa to celebrate a 60th anniversary – is his shoes.
His shoes irritate me. Everything else looks the same. Same tall slender frame,
slightly stooped, but not too much. His colorful Scandinavian print sweater ,
khaki’s cinched around his tall skinny frame with a brown leather belt and
reading glasses that hang on a cord around his neck – the same glasses he is
always looking for. But the style of his shoes has changed. No longer does he
wear a favorite pair of Nike’s or New Balance, a colorful athletic shoe with a
swoosh or logo – he is now wearing black patent leather nursing type shoes with
Velcro enclosures. Old man shoes with the Velcro straps that little boys wear
before they learn to tie their shoes or old men wear when they can no longer
master that art that they learned when they were little boys. Either their
backs don’t bend as far or their fingers are no longer limber enough – it’s
like we start with no hair. We end with no hair. We start with no teeth. We end
with no teeth. Our first shoes have Velcro enclosures – and so do our last.

Later on, though, I watched my father – the same man who
looked horribly wobbly and imbalanced walking across the lawn, play pool in his
Velcro shoes. Muscle memory, I imagine, years of balancing with feet wide
spread across the expanse of that green table came back the minute he picked up
that cue.  He couldn’t tell a stripe from
a solid. Sometimes he couldn’t tell the cue ball either but somehow, some way,
he made his shots. Not shaky or teetering. His arthritic fingers found
themselves at home around that stick – and he shot with conviction as that of a
young man wearing shoes that laced with a swoosh that could still kick off an
easy two mile run before throwing the ball around with me and my sister in the
street.

My father wheezes now. He can’t read or play golf or
horseshoes or . . . but  for now he can
still play pool and for now that seems to make him (and me) feel a little bit better
about those Velcro shoes.

 

Truth is Beauty

Blog 09-15-13

 

Two women came in my store on Saturday. One of them was a
regular customer whom I always considered quite beautiful – tall and stately.
Very kind and gentle.  Soft-spoken.  I had estimated her to be about my age,  but while talking at the register discovered
her to be a bit (surprisingly) older. She had a great-grandchild. A GREAT
GRAND-CHILD!

I registered my surprise and asked her what her secret was.
She told me it must be her wrinkle cream. I said “Really? How long have you
been using it?”

She looked at me with her head kind of cocked like she was
thinking real hard. She smiled wryly and said “oh . . . about three days!”

I laughed. And so did she. I told her she looked just as
young and beautiful three weeks ago pre-wrinkle cream . . .

 

Later in the day I had another brush with beauty . . . one
might say.

A much younger woman came in the store. Hmmm . . . I would
guess her age to be early 20’s. She was in the store with another equally
attractive woman about the same age. 
They were immaculately and stylishly dressed for a Saturday afternoon in
a Minot bookstore – and something, I can’t really explain, told me they were
from out of town.  

As she was explaining to me that she was Fargo-nian she
handed me a card that explained why she was in town.  It seemed that she was selling some kind of
band that you put around your stomach that miraculously erases all your fat and
cellulite. Also, as the picture attested, besides giving you six-pack abs it
also gives you a tan. WOW! She was a snake-oil salesman! A real walking/talking
info-mercial in my own little bookstore.

Short of pointing to the door and saying out out out (she
did buy something, after all). I also had the desire to grab her and shake her
and tell her to get a real job and stop selling crap.   I thanked
her and threw away the card after she left. 

I was exposed this day to two, at first glance, beautiful
women –one who was 70 who knew from those extra years of living that when
someone tells her she is beautiful that it isn’t
the wrinkle cream – and one woman who was 45 years younger ( with flawless
skin) who looked at me and thought my 54 years of living didn’t teach me
ANYTHING about beauty (not to mention snake oil).  

There is a moral here – as I often try to find
the moral in all small encounters in my life.  “Truth is Beauty! Beauty is Truth!”  What better place to encounter this than in a
bookstore . . .   

 

 

 

 

A Drive to the Store

A simple drive to the store has not been the same since the summer of 2011.

You think everything is fine, just going about your normal business-- and out of the corner of your eye you get the quickest snapshot of someone else’s life.

Today the snapshot came from behind the Arrowhead Shopping Center -- one of the hardest hit areas of the flood. I turned just in time to see an elderly woman just inside the doorway of very small and older home, with a broom, sweeping the dust and debris out of her home. Only there was no door. The doorway was now a giant rectangular swath cut out from where the door used to be. On the front steps a stooped over elderly gentleman stood talking to a younger man.

In that moment I wish I was a photographer with a camera. Such a candid black & white post-flood recovery picture that would make -- more than 1000 words encapsulated in that space of that oversized doorframe.

It was obvious that they were trying to fix up their house. They had probably lived in it most their lives. It was paid for. It was all they had and wasn’t it bad enough that they lost all their perennials -- iris and tulips and several trees that they had raised from seedlings well over 20 feet tall when the waters came -- but now they have no door. And the wind blows. And the dust gets into the corners. And the warped floors have become coated with brown sawdust and white sheetrock dust and the black mixture of mud and dust from all the strangers that continually come in and out and under that doorless entryway.
And this is all I can do, she thinks. Sweep. It keeps her from going crazy. It gives a meaning to the horrific destruction of her life. The simple swish swish of the broom pushing the dust outside the door to be picked up by the wind and be brought back in -- much like the continual rolling of the boulder up the hill -- She has become Sysiphus, sentenced to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Only, she is not frustrated. She is doing what she knows best at this moment in time. Keeping the dust out of her house. Keeping house! And, in so doing, reclaiming her house with a broom as her own and as something still worthy of claiming.

She is, one might say, quite regal with that broom in hand. The broom becomes her scepter, proud queen of her own domain -- her only domain -- door or no door. It is hers. It is, rather, theirs. And they have worked their entire lives for this particular home on the corner of N. 16th St. She isn’t about to let 7 feet of water take that away from her or muddy up her entryway.

And all this, we see, with a simple drive to the store!

 

NO AMAZON PRICE COMPARISON APPS ALLOWED -

ATTENTION AMAZON COMPARISON APP OWNERS!

(In Reference to Amazon Paying Shoppers to USE Main Street as a Showroom on Saturday Dec. 10)

 

Today, you have a choice. You can shop here, (naked and barefoot and with your pet toy poodle if you want) and pay sales tax and support your local economy or you can shop an out-of -state on-line retailer that doesn’t support or care about your local economy or community. BUT, one choice we will NOT ALLOW AT MAIN STREET BOOKS IS YOUR CHOICE TO BRING IN YOUR AMAZON Price comparison APP AND USE IT to compare prices and then get paid NOT TO BUY HERE but TO purchase from AMAZON. WE ARE NOT A SHOWROOM FOR AMAZON. If AMAZON wants to pay you $5 FOR YOU NOT TO PURCHASE FROM US -- it JUST means that our MESSAGE to SHOP SMALL is WORKING against their own CORPORATE GREED and EFFORTS to close down your favorite local businesses . . .

More people are EMBRACING the SHOP LOCAL message. INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES have seen a MARKED growth. People are making their choice and are starting to UNDERSTAND the Price our country is paying for CHEAP (aka Amazon).

Today, you still have a choice. SHOP LOCAL and support the community you LOVE or let GIANT corporations like AMAZON drive your shopping habits to the point that there are no MORE choices and NO MORE LOCAL to SHOP

Magic City Losing its Luster

News flash . . . Magic City is losing its luster.

Where do we begin to tell this story? Was it the proliferation of big corporations that "The Magic Fund" sought to, and successfully wooed into our midst?

Was it the shortage of housing that this proliferation of workers brought into our community?

And finally, was it the deluge of water that came with the 2011 flood that washed away the last sparkle of a community that valued family and home above all else?

  • I have a friend. We'll call Bob. He is a young man (by my standards, anyway) who is a single father of a 14 year-old-girl. Recently diagnosed with an infection in his spinal column he has been hooked up to a drip of antibiotics for two weeks. He has full time care. During this home hospice period he received an eviction notice from his landlord. When he called his landlord he was told that the rent was being raised from $900 mo. to $1900 mo. and, assuming he couldn't afford it, sent an eviction notice instead. And yes, the landlord was right! No one who doesn't work in the oil fields can afford that!
  • I have another friend (wow! that's two already) -- we'll call Anastasia (I have always wanted a friend named Anastasia -- although I imagine she would be hard to compete with). She has a FEMA trailer. The cost to heat her trailer for two weeks in October was close to $200. And it was still cold.
  • That's it. I have no more friends. Just people who I feel need a voice . . . like the hundreds of displaced manufactured home owners who can't find a lot, or get assistance from many resources-- because they don't have a "STICK HOME."
  • There are families moving out because the waters also washed away many childcare facilities . . . a scarce resource prior to the flood and now almost non-existant.

I imagine I could go on and on. I kvetch about the injustices done in our community from the people I love to the people I barely know to families that I feel for although I have never met. And I have no answers.

I do know, however, that my ideal community values core family tradition above growth and prosperity. My ideal community sounds like childrens' laughter, smells like backyard family barbecue and looks like Main Street at Christmas time.

I drive by Oak Park every day on my way to work. Past the vacant houses -- standing ghostlike, some skeletal and others with open doors and broken windows, piles of belongings still sitting alongside curbs. They lie waiting for the first snowfall to bury what was left of the lives that they once contained. Few have signs on the lawns "I'm Coming Back!" Some have FEMA trailers filling up the back and front yards where children once sang and played. There are no hopscotch marks on the sidewalk and the only bikes lay in the rubbish alongside the curb.

I drive by Oak Park every day. "America's Favorite Park!" which just received a grant for $100,000 from Coca Cola to rebuild. I voted. I voted about 100 times for my favorite park. But, I am afraid the question has not become "Where will the children play?" the question has become "Will there be any children left to play?" Let me add this to our growing list of the "Haves and the Have Nots" in "The Once Magic City." Have parks! Have not children to play in them!

 

 

Just another flood story in the magic city. . . ?

My daughter, a single mother, was fortunate (or so we thought) during our recent flood disaster. Living in a manufactured home park, Talbots, she was fortunate to find a mover to have her trailer moved the night before the waters hit the park.

We thought we did everything right during this disaster. We stayed in contact with the owner of the court during this disaster hopefully waiting to go back into our lot when the park was re-opened. The owner continually gave us vague answers about the future of the park.

Last week I drove through Talbots and noticed that all the damaged trailers had been removed and that some heavy equipment was present. Knocking on several doors in the area I was given information that the park had been sold and through more research contacted the gentleman who bought the park to inquire about moving back in.

Again, I got vague answers. He informed me that there would be no lots available for manufactured homes and that he was putting in "Apartment Type" structures (another "Man Camp?" What about a displaced mother and children camp?). He was friendlier when he told me he did have some homes for sale in Robindale if we were interested in purchasing a manufactured home. Out of curiosity I went to see what $60,000 can buy you in a trailer court in Minot. After discovering the cracker jack crap people are trying to sell displaced people because people have no choice due to the non-existence of lots we exercised our other option: apply for a FEMA trailer.

According to FEMA my daughter does not qualify for a trailer because her home sustained no damage. Granted, the lot was destroyed, she was evicted without notice and she now has a $500 month trailer payment for a trailer that can’t get hooked up anywhere because all the lots have been purchased by out-of-state interests or are being taken up by FEMA for "Temporary" housing. FEMA states that it is their goal through temporary housing to get people into permanent housing. Wouldn’t it be in FEMA’s interest to have some of those lots for people who have permanent housing and no where to permanently put their housing.

I call every trailer lot in the county weekly. There is nothing and they tell me that the doors swing open and shut all day long with people begging for a lot.

I suppose my daughter and her children could live in their home without heat, water or sewer throughout the winter and blame FEMA for freezing to death . . . but they have family and it seems that that’s about all we can count on during this disaster.

There is a greed and corruption that is slowly permeating our community that began with the oil, has filtered through to the property owners (landlords) and that attempts to send our women and children into the streets. Somebody’s profiting off this flood. It is not the daughters or the grandchildren of our community. And it’s ugly. And it’s wrong. And no one seems to care!

Three Words Between Friends

This month the Souris River, flowing through my hometown of Minot North Dakota, broke a century old record – with water flowing over the dikes, thousands were forced from their homes.

I was one of the lucky ones. My business, Main Street Books, was spared by two city blocks. My current house, sitting on ten acres, was spared by twenty miles of highway. Our new house, which we are slated to close on in three short days, was spared by another two city blocks. The people I know and love in this city weren’t so lucky!

The new homeless in Minot include three employees, a large percentage of my customers, my daughter and three grand-children, my step-son and his wife, and many friends to include two women that, if I was 16, I would refer to as my BGF’s.

But this year I turned 52 and, despite my age and throughout my life, I have found the relationship of "girl friend" not only a hard one to consider – but also the hardest of my relationships to nurture. Prioritizing time for friends hasn’t been an easy or socially comfortable part of my personality.

The warnings about the flood came while I was on vacation in California. Struggling mightily to save my daughter’s trailer, I called one of my best friends, Jeanine, and asked her about the situation in Burlington, a tight knit community that was right in the path of the flood. I had helped Jeanine sandbag her Burlington home when the first wave of evacuations and warnings came a month earlier. She had no reassurances for me. I had none for her.

Last minute pleading found a home mover who finally acquiesced to "work all night" in order to find the time to move my daughter’s trailer up and out of the flood plain.

I returned home on Tuesday to find road closures, the city overtaken by National Guard and a 24-hour local newscast detailing river projections, crests, dam release CFS , as well as a town filled with U-Hauls, campers and flat-bed trucks full of the worldly possessions of people who were destined to lose everything else that they couldn’t contain in that small space of mobility.

Thankfully, the altruistic nature of North Dakotans is unsurpassed. Regretfully, there is also a survivor’s guilt that has creeped into my consciousness– and perhaps the two go hand in hand. This makes it easy to run down the block to help sandbag a neighbor, yet difficult to call your best friend and ask how she is doing – especially when you know you were one of the lucky ones.

I didn’t call my best friends. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t cry when I saw the videos of Jeanine’s city Burlington go under. Which isn’t to say I didn’t hyperventilate or search for her cell number in a dozen different ways when I saw the videos of Heidi’s section of town -- only rooftops peeking above the raging river. I just didn’t call them. I didn’t know what to say! I felt guilty! My house was dry! My business was dry! I had a home!

My first contact with Heidi came the following day by way of Heidi’s husband, Joe. Joe stopped by the bookstore to check on me. Me. Mrs. High and dry. While he talked on the phone to Heidi, relaying my messages to her that if she needs anything, anything at all "please let me know," he had a message for me that stopped me short: Heidi says she loves you!

I think I had a split second deer in the headlight look and then quickly regained my composure . . . "I love her too!" I finally sputtered. He relayed my reply to Heidi – while I quickly looked away, in the sudden realization and shame that this was the first time I had ever told a friend I loved her. How many men, in my life had I pledged that kind of devotion to?

A couple hours later, Jeanine called me, expressing her apologies for not having the time to help my daughter and also expressing concern for all the women on our softball and volleyball team that lost their homes. I assured her that I was here for her and apologized profusely for not calling. Survivor’s guilt. I knew also that she had lost her home and yet she didn’t mention that fact.

"I love you," I told her.

"I love you, too!" she responded, without the hesitation – the hesitation that I had exhibited just hours earlier.

52 years of living and not once have I said those three simple words to a friend.

Today I said it not once, but twice, to my two best friends in the whole world.

Today I can stand out in the middle of the road outside the door of my bookstore and see the river rushing through the town where there was once homes and businesses and families and baseball games and zoos and fairgrounds . . . all gone. But I would also see something else in that torrent of water that is destroying homes – I would see those rivers tie us closer as a community. From Jeanine in Burlington, living in a camper outside a schoolyard – to Mrs. High and Dry Bookstore owner me – to Heidi’s submerged home down river – there are those three words flowing rising from those murky waters. "I love you."

And that, my friend, may not be enough. But for today, that may be all we have.

Underwater

When is enough enough?

Three years of the worst winters ever -- record breaking snow, snow melt, rain, moisture, saturation -- AND NOW THIS!

When is enough enough?

Roofs peaking out through the river. Water creeping up Central toward Main Street. The Niess Impression's building sandbagged to the windows and still losing the battle.

When is enough enough?

An 85-year-old woman being dragged from the only home she has known for 60 years. Single mothers sleeping in shelters with their four children-- one a baby! A single pink child's lawn chair disappears quickly down a raging river!

When is enough enough?

Walking south toward Niess' Impressions today to see if they needed help sandbagging, I hung around a little bit, caught a national guardsman's attention to see if there was anything I could do: they were filling up Tesco Barriers with sand throughout the downtown area . . . I was told that the family was told that they had to leave the building and were expecting six foot water up to the walls.

I slowly wandered away -- watching the surreal activity: roads blocked, people meandering, piles of sanbags abandoned . . . when I heard a noise behind me. When I turned a National Guardsman, one who I recognized as a regular customer of mine, was running toward me with a big smile on his face -- "It looks like the bookstore is going to be okay!" He beamed . . . and in the midst of all the chaos around me I am reminded of a bright spot.

"The Bookstore is going to be okay!" And it matters. Just like it matters that many things aren't going to be okay. Can I count my blessings as century old buildings crumble and disintegrate to dust? I will try. Maybe tomorrow, or the next day, I will try. And in the meantime it is nice to know that there is a guardsman out there who is fighting to save our town who is counting my blessings as his own--at least until I can count my own. Thank you!

When is enough enough?

When people stop caring about each other. Then, and only then, will enough be enough.

 

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