Just a short comment in defense of gramatical diversity...I for one would rue the day that everyone wrote alike. While there are 'rules' we are taught in school about our languages, our languages are also living, evolving, and vital things that are not static. I welcome all types of communicators, and relish many considered 'wrong' or 'bad'. Not all, but many.


I was born in 1959. I read this about my year of birth...
Things can change a lot in 45 years. Here are a few things that Americans were saying in 1959:

I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it is going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $20.

Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long when $5000 will only buy a used one.

If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous.

Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?

If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.

When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 30 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage.

Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long as the girls.

Also, their music drives me wild. This 'Rock Around The Clock' thing is nothing but racket.

Pretty soon you won't be able to buy a good 10-cent cigar.

I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they called astronauts preparing for it down in Texas.

Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the President.

Do you suppose television will ever reach our part of the country?

I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now.

It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women have to work to make ends meet.

It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.

I'm just afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.

Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to Congress.

The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.

There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $15 a night to stay in a hotel.

No one can afford to be sick any more, $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood.

If a few idiots want to risk their necks flying across the country that's fine, but nothing will ever replace trains.

I don't know about you, but if they raise the price of coffee to 15 cents, I'll just have to drink mine at home.

If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it. I'll have my wife learn to cut hair.

We won't be going out much any more. Our baby sitter informed us she wants 50 cents an hour. Kids think money grows on trees.



My Dad was in World War II. He passed away in August 2001, and before and after, I pondered that defining time in his life. I pondered it after 9/11, when people suddenly became super patriots, flags everywhere, spouting off about subjects they knew next to nothing about, emotions overtaking what sense they may or may not have had in the first place.

I read an excerpt from a book that sounds like it asks some good questions, and has some interesting things to say, called Homeland. In it, it questions why people react the way they do to defining events.

I love and appreciate America, but I also feel many actions we do can and has been wrong. We that live here should always question what's going on. If that makes me a troublemaker, then so be it.

My Dad loved America too, laying his life on the line many times during WWII. He came back quietly as most men did, no parades, no fanfare. He didn't fly a flag either, but neither did he get angry over it. He just went on with life. But one thing he always taught me not by empty words but by his example, is that you do what you can, you work hard, and you DO ask questions.


Lord Shiva and his wife, the Goddess Parvati
Twenty-five years ago, I had a dear friend move away. We kept in touch through infrequent letters. A few years went by. She wrote me to say she'd joined the Hare Krishnas. At the time, I was a passionate evangelical Christian, young and naive. I was horrified for her salvation and blissfully ignorant of who the Krishnas were.

The last time I heard from her, I was in living in California and she was downwind of me at a base there just having joined the Army, and was in basic training. Alas, the Army didn't care that I wanted to get in touch when I attempting to find out her mailing address (which she had neglected to provide in her short letter...)

I wonder where Carol is now.

It's sad, but at the same time rather nice, how people come in and out of our lives.


My parents' home was in the north of town, at the end of a long road. They sold it in 1998. Even at that time, when I was there for the auction, it was surreal. Now, 6 years later, I am contemplating a pilgrimage there this summer, and simultaneously look forward to it, and dread it. Of course it will not be like it was. I don't know how to digest how it will be. But I feel I must go...


Going Home is Never the Same

I have made trips like Chris Ware made. They are indeed, very bittersweet. I find that for myself, I have to make them. I am being pulled right now, to make such a trip. I plan on going alone, with one friend, to the village of my birth this summer. I have to go, I don't have any choice. The pull is like the pull animals feel when they migrate. You just know you have to. I'll be making my pilgrimage to see where I as, who I was, who they were, and reconnect with the past.

Chris Ware says it well...
I am only one of many grandchildren, my grandparents having had two children, my mother and my uncle; my uncle’s children also spent many a night at my grandmother’s house, not to mention my mother, who of course grew up there. Thus, not only are my memories of my grandmother and Omaha not unique, I suspect they are generously gift-wrapped by my special position as a child who could be indulged as one’s own might not be, and through which one’s own regrets might be replayed and ‘fixed,’ perhaps. There were dozens – scores – of times my grandmother would slip and call me by her son’s name, never noticing or even correcting herself. As well, I’m certain I’ve afforded a large measure of rosy joy to swell and spill over into the glass that was, at the time, filled by the dry humdrum of life, running the ribbon of my overly-precious memories against the edge of my mental scissors just one more time to give it that extra, fancy curl. But I can’t help it. And why, when my grandmother decided to move away, did she take me to all the houses she’d lived and grown up in, if not to convince herself of something similar?

I had prepared myself for the visit to Omaha in 2002 with the steely reserve one might save for open-casket funerals; I’d expected it all to hit me like a blast of winter air the second I stepped off the plane, grateful tears filling my eyes and nose, ‘mine homeland,’ etc. – but the actual experience was much more flat than that, almost clinical. The airport had been renovated, expanded; gourmet coffee kiosks, backlit advertisements for cell phones, and travelers with PowerBooks plugged into the wall reminded me that life had indeed continued here since I’d left. Even so, I still couldn’t believe that I was actually here, in the literal city of my dreams; I wanted to stop and grab one of the agreeable Omahans by the turtleneck and say, ‘Don’t you realize how lucky you are? Don’t you know that you’re living in the most magical place on Earth?’

In my shiny red rental I felt like an ill-outfitted time-traveler. The ridiculous plasticity of the vehicle clashed with the felty grey memories passing by and through its windshield at me, one after the other, details missing, others plumped up by my thirsty sentimentality. I drove and redrove routes that I used to take practically every day while living there, from my school to my house to my school to my grandmother’s house, and back again. I took hundreds of pictures. I unrolled the window, trying to smell something I’d forgotten. I stopped the car, got out, and stood. I ate snow. I was looking, listening, for something, my wife patiently weathering my prattling on and on about the amazingly familiar cracks in the sidewalk, the hill down which I used to coast on my bike, the grocery store I’d give every cent I’ve ever been paid to revisit with my mother and grandmother for just one hour.

But the more I drove around, looking to see what was still left of me, I began to realize – intuitively at first, and then more sensibly – that the details I was frantically trying to scrape up, dust off, and pick out of the landscape (and, more often than not, not finding) weren’t affecting me anywhere nearly as deeply – as silly as this sounds – as the curves of the streets and the shapes of the hills and bridges that I was traveling around, over and under. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made, both to my memories of the real place, and the dreams I had about it: houses and buildings and tress looked both strange and oddly unfamiliar, of course, due the time that had passed, but the spatial rivulets that had patiently eaten away at my mind from riding in a car from house to store to house countless times as a child were as real to me as the back of my hand, and as immediately familiar as if I’d just been thinking about them a few seconds before. I could anticipate the crest of a hill or the drop of an alley like the passage in a well-known piece of music; I sensed the turn of a corner like the expected sighting of a loved one in a stadium crown; these routes had eroded unique tunnels in my mind through which everything else in my memory – at least it seemed at that moment – to have been poured, a molten lead of three decades of digested experiences slowly setting into its heavy shape in the intestinal ant farm head of an Omaha Nebraska brain.

When my grandmother was dying in the nursing home in Texas, I was able to witness the steady almost measurable deterioration of both her mind and her personality. All her life she’d been one of the most generous people I’d known, the checks and clipped newspaper strips and frozen boxes of Ho-Hos (unavailable in Texas) arriving at my dorm mailbox just a small part of her largess. She’d given of herself in a way that most people don’t try, radiating a reassuring warmth that preachers and proselytizers talk about but I’ve never felt anywhere they tell me to look for it. But in death, she became alarmingly demanding, petulant, almost spiteful, cruelly alienating herself from my family’s memories of her with an unfamiliarity that was only matched by the bloating of her body and the gradual curling of her limbs. Our phone calls, which had been placed every other day for years since I’d moved away, became infrequent, and eventually were so inchoate that they were more of a torture than a relief.

During her steady decline I continued my weekly comic strip for the student newspaper in Austin, but found that I was only able to draw stories of my increasingly littler mouse wandering alone, through a large, unoccupied house – my grandmother’s house. Every week was a torment of my trying to do something that might mean something to a reader waiting to take a Calculus test and balancing the inevitable erasure of one of the most important people in my life. One of her last nights, when we arrived, I looked in on her, and she was laying there, breathing heavily, the blanket clutched tightly in the wads her fists had become, her eyes and tongue lolling back and forth behind half-closed lids and mouth, the machinery was shutting down, the gears were grinding to a halt. Amazingly, however, the attendant nurse said that the had been talking in her sleep, and intelligibly – and that she said she’s ‘gone back’ to the house in Omaha – but that all the rooms were empty, and that, horribly, she didn’t know where anyone, or anything, was.

She died a day or two later, and my mother and stepfather – I don’t know how they did it – took care of all the ugly details; actually seeing her dead, signing the papers, arranging for cremation, the transportation of the body, etc., etc., et cetera. My life went on, amazingly; I moved to Chicago, started drawing a new comic strip, got married, saw my friends have children, get married, slip up, die. Somehow, things happen, and if you spend most of your life sitting at a table starting at blank sheets of paper, they happen fast.

I had driven by my grandmother’s house already on this trip in 2002, but the tongue-scum beige the church had painted it – not to mention the boxy cinder-block addition they’d attached to the former entry, blotting out the window to the kitchen which was, to me, the center of the house – was more than I could stand to see again. My own memories of my grandmother were already so reconstituted by having seen her dwindle from the vital person I’d known all my life into the demanding patient she became that somehow seeing this house, with which I’d so completely associated her, chopped up and redone, was too much of a parallel fro me, and I’d driven on each time. But here I was. What was I going to do, not go?

Though the house was still there, at least in part, it had ‘cooled,’ for lack of a better work, like the remnants of an exploded start. My every-expanding orbit had taken me back; here was possibly where the most ‘me’ used to be – I could still look at the yard and the windows and imagine myself as a kid, playing, and as a teenager, trying everything possible to grow up faster and get away. But whatever solipsistic wonder I had imbued it with was now static, frozen at absolute zero…


"I never left..."

"I didn't go away.  I never left my village."
From:  Alexei and the Spring
Tonight I saw a documentary about a tiny village in Russia. So very quiet and simple their life. Early mornings heavy with mist in the low areas, waking up with the dawn, taking care of the animals...

It took me back to my childhood in rural Minnesota and a small village I grew up in. I could feel the dew on my skin, smell the grass and manure, feel the soft velvet of my horse's muzzle nudging my hand as I poured the oats...running back in the cold to the house to grab my books and run to meet the bus way down the road...like it was just yesterday.


Several years ago, my daughter Eva came and told me something out of the blue one night.

After Wednesday night kids club at church, she told me about her Grandpa (my father) doing things she was uncomfortable with, and he shouldn't have been doing. It involved taking advantage of her closeness when holding her on his lap and touching her inside her panties sometimes.

You have to believe a child and give them the benefit of the doubt in such situations, at least that's what I think. At the time, I took her to the police where they talked with her while videotaping her. The county attorney where I now lived
contacted Kittson county and the sheriff deputy from Hallock paid my parents a visit. No criminal charges were ever
brought, nor did I file any civil action. To be honest, it was difficult enough doing what I did since it involved my Dad who I loved dearly.

My mother and sister Betty got very upset with me for taking it that far, but I felt strongly I had to not only for Eva's
sake so she knew she could trust me that I cared for her, but if it was true, that my father would be held accountable as I feel he should be. Only three people knew the truth - my father, Eva, and God.

In the end, I met with my father in Grand Forks at an Evangelical Free Church there, halfway between Fargo and St. Vincent, together with each of our pastors, and had a very awkward but necessary meeting to try to facilitate getting at the truth, and, hopefully, begin a healing process.

I cannot remember much of the conversation, to be honest. I do remember one thing: When I asked my father point blank if he was guilty of what Eva accused him of, he did not deny it. I also remember that I offered my forgiveness and continued love, and he wept. I guess you can read into that whatever you want.

Eventually, our family healed, as much as you can after something like that. But I never allowed Eva to visit my parents again alone...


My ex-husband died today. It was his 46th birthday just this past Wednesday. Even though he's never on my mind anymore, part of my past, he's still the father of my two children, and when Eva called today, it was quite a shock, and yet not surprising. He died during the night, afixiating on his own vomit. His own father found him when he didn't get up as usual. He is known to have recently using marijuana, as well as multiple prescription drugs he obtained from various doctors using false ID. An autopsy will be performed tomorrow. No matter what they find out, one thing can be said: If Tom had lived a different life, he would be alive today. For now, I am there for Eva and Daniel. Eva called Daniel, and he did not have much reaction. He was in shock, silent on the phone, mumbling he would come if a way could be found. I hope there is a way. It might be helpful for Daniel to have this chance to visit relatives of his Dad's, as well as see Eva, during this time......


I never have enough time. To that end, I have fought sleeping for over 20 years, sometimes successfully, but mostly not. I call sleep the living death, stealer of my life. I love night, and how I feel in it. I also love the cleanliness of dawn, how work accomplished in the early morning after it seems to be much more fruitful than a slow magical night of striving. I want it all, but alas my body only allows some.