Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mankato bookstore is everything you dream

A must-stop on any road trip for me is a used bookstore.

Last weekend wifey and I were in Mankato, MN, to visit Junior in college. We stayed downtown and eventually made our way to the Once Read Bookstore, a landmark in that city. By the way, the Mankato downtown scene is extremely cool too, if you like unique bars and restaurants, and who doesn't?

I picked up a Hard Case Crime novel and the kid found me a Tom Sawyer book I don't have (I collect various book covers of my man Sam Clemens). Scored some more books for my other kids and by the end of the 30 minute stop had dropped 20 bucks for probably 15 books. Not bad.

Read this story from the Mankato paper, if for no other reason than the pictures I didn't want to pilfer for the blog.
“I opened the doors to my business on September 1, 1975. In those days there were numerous stores including Mark Weinstein’s “The Lost Cord” and three different head shops.  The street was alive.”
Back in those days Mark said he was a heavy drinker and a pot smoker. 
“Pot gave me a lot of the ideas for the store.” 
Used bookstore ambiance is just cool. The obligatory bookstore cat was there. There were a couple book flies sitting in the aisles reading but not buying. The store cashier was a strange, knowledgeable, friendly guy. Strange in the best sense of the word. He tried convincing me that Judy Blume is now writing some good stuff for adults. We'll see.

Best of all, the place was floor to ceiling books, which is pretty much how I envision heaven. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finished Silva’s ‘The Heist’

I’ve become a huge fan of Daniel Silva. His Gabriel Allon character is so well develop and constantly growing. You’d think it would be tough to keep him interesting after 14 books but he does. I still have two more books to go to get caught up.

Gabriel’s cover is that he is an art restorer, and a good one, but he’s also one of the highest operatives in Israeli intelligence.

I gave it a 6+, just missing a 7 because I hought the ending missed the mark. Still, such enjoyable books. I hope he keeps turning them out. I’m learning, art, history, geography and still having a kick doing it. Goodreaders give it 4.1 or 5, and B&N’ers a 4.4 of 5.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Art of Manliness

So there's been some national conversation lately about how men talk.

In fact, twice this week I was accused of not being a "real" man because I don't speak like a vulgar caveman. One went so far as to suggest that my friends and I are, umm, the obscenity for gay males, because I told him my dad, my son, my friends, don't talk like that.

I honestly don't think my kids ever heard me say so much as "damn" until they were well into their teenage years, and even then the number of times they've heard me swear could be counted on one hand. When I did, I think they'd even agree, it was probably forgivable considering the circumstances. As Mark Twain said: "Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

But just walking around in casual conversation? No. Very rare for me. Certainly not commonplace. You'd have to follow me around for many years with a microphone to find anything that wouldn't be allowed on The Waltons.

Have I or my friends ever told a dirty joke? Sure. But I grew out of those. Now most of my best jokes aren't obscene.

As I've said before, there are only about eight people in this world whose opinion of me I actually care about, and neither of them were these two yahoos. However, it did get me thinking about what is a real man and how different people have various perceptions of manliness.

Those two probably don't consider these things I do "manly":

I go to church. I pray every night.

I grow heirloom tomatoes from seed. And I can them and make salsa.

I read. Can quote Frost, Shakespeare and Poe.

Haven't had a drink in almost 20 years. Used to, a lot. But grew up.

People say I'm skinny, though I prefer toned. Was 200 pounds, now 160. (See above.)

Been married once, to the same woman for 28 years.

Raised three caring, God-fearing children who are contributing members of society.

I have a pet rabbit.

I moisturize.

I have a raspberry patch and herb garden.

I've written books and can use multi-syllable words.

I like Prince.

I cried like a baby when my Basset Hound, Edna, died a few years back, and will do the same when Stanley passes.

I'm biased, because I'm talking about me, but I think a man can be manly and still do those aforementioned things. In fact, I think he IS manly if he does some of those things.

There are other things I do that could be stereotyped as manly, even redneck, which is I think what those guys consider manly. But since I don't swear or speak obscenities about women while doing them, they probably don't count:

I enjoy outlaw and classic country and rock. Most recent concerts I've been to: Casey Donahew (red dirt Texas band), Willie Nelson, BB King, Kid Rock, Aerosmith, KISS. I had David Allan Coe tickets, but the concert was cancelled because he had bronchitis (so he's probably not a "real man" either.) But throw in my Elton John and Prince concerts and that probably negates any manliness points I earned.

Grew up on a farm. Branded cattle, castrated pigs, swam in the cattle tank, threw bales, worked several years for the local veterinarians. But I was also in band and swing choir, so again, negated.

I own more guns than I have fingers.

I've bought cattle, raised cattle, sold cattle, worked for a cattle buyer.

Have run 26.2 miles without stopping and several half marathons. Don't know that it's manly, but doubt the two dudes can walk to their mailbox and back without getting winded.

I drive an 11-year-old Jeep with 207,000 miles on it, though I've never changed my own oil. I figure for 25 bucks I'll let it fall on someone else's head.

I've survived three near-death experiences.

I have a heavy bag hanging in my garage that I punch instead of my wife or kids.

I cut my hair twice a year and never comb it.

I've butchered deer and antelope.

I raised a son who is going to be a cop and who prevented two guys from raping a passed out woman in an alley last summer.

I raised a daughter who punched a boy who was giving her disabled friend a bad time.

I raised three kids who are leaders, stand up to bullies, protect the weak. They don't mock them.

So I guess if some want to consider me gay, so be it. I don't really care. If some want to call me "redneck," ditto. Maybe I'm a hybrid man.

One philosophy I've tried to live by is that I don't feel I'm better than anybody else, but I also don't feel anybody else is better than me. Gotta say, some people are really testing me on the former.

As Hamlet said: "What a piece of work is a man!"

Friday, October 7, 2016

Finished: Gustav Niebuhr's 'Lincoln's Bishop'

I recently delved into the nonfiction and religious realm again and enjoyed my trip there with Gustav Niebuhr's "Lincoln's Bishop."
 More than a century ago, during the formative years of the American nation, Protestant churches carried powerful moral authority, giving voice to values such as mercy and compassion, while boldly standing against injustice and immorality. Gustav Niebuhr travels back to this defining period, to explore Abraham Lincoln's decision to spare the lives of 265 Sioux men sentenced to die by a military tribunal in Minnesota for warfare against white settlers — while allowing the hanging of 38 others, the largest single execution on American soil. Popular opinion favored death or expulsion. Only one state leader championed the cause of the Native Americans, Episcopal bishop, Henry Benjamin Whipple. 
 I liked several things about this book. For one, I always enjoy settings I'm familiar with, whether it's in a fiction or nonfiction book. This Dakota War pretty much took place along the Minnesota River and touches on locations from St. Paul to Mankato and St. Cloud to New Ulm.

 It also didn't seem to be overtly biased toward one side. Seems often, even in history books, either the white people are painted as racist slugs or Native Americans as drunken slobs. Niebuhr does a good job of express Bishop Whipple's thoughts as being understanding of why Native Americans were a hair-trigger away from revolting against the government and white settlers, while also understanding the white settlers blood thirst for avenging the atrocities committed against them. It doesn't excuse any of the wrongs done by either side, but explains how the anger and emotions evolved.

 I also enjoyed the backstories on how Bishop Whipple came to know President Lincoln, how all this was going on as the Civil War raged, and how Gen. Pope was disgraced on the Civil War battlefield and relegated to clean up Minnesota's problem.

 The book boasts a stellar 4.8 of 5 stars from Amazonians. Goodreaders are a bit more bearish with a 3.7. It hit the 7 mark on the Haugenometer 1-10 scale. Here's a review from the MinnPost.

 I'd recommend this for any American history buff, a local history nerd or just your average slug like me who enjoys a good story.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

4-star film review: 'My Many Sons'

Guest post by Mike Henriksen

Don Meyer lived four separate lifetimes: Successful athlete, coach at David Lipscomb, coach at Northern State, and fundraiser/public speaker. Weave in a tough childhood, a tragic car accident, and fighting cancer, and Meyer had more experiences in 69 years than most of us would have in three times that span.

I was honored enough to know Coach Meyer. Not as well as some, but better than many. Everyone who knew Coach well could fill at least a half hour with stories of his influence, his character, his humor, and his quirks. They can recite his rules. They can rave about his wife, Carmen. They can tell you he never wanted to talk about himself. They can tell you he was friends with John Wooden, Pat Summit, and hundreds of other coaches across the country because of the wildly successful summer camps he ran. They can tell you about the phone calls or notes they received from him, which always seemed to come at the perfect time.

Now imagine you are Casey Bond. Bond was a baseball player that reached the AAA level. He got into acting on a bit of a whim, and has been in several major movies, including “Moneyball” and “I Saw the Light”. Bond spent the last year of his college career at Lipscomb, but had no idea who Meyer, who had left for Northern by that time, was. An encounter brought them together and they developed a relationship. Bond, who had never produced a movie before, felt compelled to share the story of Coach Meyer with a world in need of positive stories. He set out on his mission!

But where do you begin? How does anyone condense so many incredible experiences and accomplishments into a 90-minute film? With the release of “My Many Sons”, Bond gives us his answer.

Using a series of narrations, flashbacks, and foreshadowing, director Ralph Portillo peels back layer after layer of a complex man, yet still maintains a mostly linear progression of the story. The basic timeline begins with Coach Meyer’s team winning a National Championship at Lipscomb in 1986 and ends with his retirement from the sideline in Aberdeen in 2010, all while chronicling his various successes, failures, family issues, and professional dilemmas along the way.

No biographical movie succeeds without a strong portrayal by its lead actor. Judge Reinhold is best known for his comedy movies, including “Stripes” and the “Beverly Hills Cop” series. I will admit I was leery of the choice when I first heard about it. But like Gary Busey in “The Buddy Holly Story”, Reinhold delivers a performance that is less imitation and more essence. His Don Meyer is nasty and compassionate, focused and mystified. His Don Meyer wrestles with grey in a world that, to him, is black and white, even when it comes to his family. His Don Meyer struggles to show compassion, and then becomes a fountain of grace. In watching Reinhold’s Don Meyer, the world will understand the complexity of the man who grew to near legendary status.

Casey Bond plays Coach’s son Jerry and puts in a very solid performance. Amy Kay Raymond, who plays Meyer’s wife Carmen, hits all the right notes while playing a very limited number of measures.

My favorite scene involves the day Coach Meyer takes over at Northern. I look forward to hearing from Andy Foster, Sundance Wicks, and Steve Smiley if the scene is true. But if it isn’t, it certainly could be! No one-minute sequence in the movie captures the Don Meyer many of us knew better.

One problem. Sports movies HAVE to get the sports part right. There is one major gaffe in this one, and the rest of it, due to budget restrictions I am guessing, gets by. But again, like Reinhold’s performance, the essence is enough.

I know what some in our part of the world may say about this movie. We wanted Bond and screenwriter Carol Miller to tell “our” Don Meyer story. We wanted to see Bob Wachs Arena, not the Northern logo on another gym’s floor. We wanted the world to know the philanthropist Coach became in his final chapter. We want “ESPY” winning Coach exalted. And those are legitimate feelings. But again, there was so much to tell, and so little money (about 3 to 4 million dollars according to industry sources, which is a pittance in movie circles) to do it with.

So when you watch this film, pretend you did not know who Coach Don Meyer was. Because that is who this movie is targeted toward. Just enjoy a positive message about an amazing man. And if you knew him, revel in the fact that you get to spend a little more time with a man that is missed by so many, and touched so many of us in such an incredible way.

4 out of 5 stars