it's words!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

i'm not ashamed. ain't that news?

I need to put this above the fold because I'll forget about it if I don't write it right away. It's hilarious to me, and may also amuse anyone else who follows the NBA, and maybe others if I'm lucky. So, the Timberwolves' marketing slogan for this year is: "See What They Can Do." (They're 1-8 so far.) The PR staff is nothing if not realistic, it seems.

Probably I should wrap up the open ends from my last post. Poll-watching went off virtually without a hitch. There were a couple noteworthy incidents, though:

Minnesota has paper ballots that are basically like the Scantron sheets we used in school, which you fill out and then put into the counting machine yourself. This is important only as it relates to the case of one remarkable wheelchair-bound dude who retained only 25% of the stock human number of limbs. He drove himself to the polling place, wheeled himself inside by using his one leg to drag the chair along, used what little flesh existed past his shoulders to hold the pen and fill out his ballot himself (remember, these are little ovals that need to be darkened completely so a machine can read them), and then managed to slide it into the ballot counter - and its in-tray, which I'd say about 10% of the be-armed voters were having trouble with, was just about level with this dude's eyes. I tried not to gawk, but it was pretty freaking impressive.

One of the election judges thought so too, a hale-and-hearty 84-year-old named (really) Doc Watson, who was moved by the sight to say something to the effect of "Now that's what you call true grit." He was an interesting character himself; a good number of people who came in to vote knew him and said hello, and I'm pretty sure Doc (your mental picture of him wearing a red checkered flannel shirt is correct, by the way) did not know every single one of them, but he humored them well enough. He talked to me a little bit, and in the brief span of time we knew each other managed to tell me the same story twice (with several hours between tellings, in his defense). For some reason, the fact that four-inch-spike high-heels had been in vogue in the 1930s, and are now coming back into fashion, really stuck in his mind. His sister used to wear them back then, you see, and boy, he just doesn't see what the point is. Heh heh heh, they had a high-heel race in Minneapolis awhile back, and it was just something like 50 yards or so, but that's about 49 yards farther than Doc would want to go!

He also said funny things like "Talk is cheap, unless it's back-talk, as any cop will tell you," which was in response to my confession about getting pulled over on the way to Willmar.

"Virtually" without a hitch means that even though I woke up in time to re-experience how terrible Comfort Sunshine Roast coffee is, I got lost and arrived a few minutes late*, which was awkward for a number of reason, but we overcame. Also, Obama got frigging trounced in my precinct, but at this point I am okay with that.

I'm sure I don't need to explain how much "Saved By Zero" makes me want to throttle sparrows.

Back to the East Coast in a little more than a month! That'll be cool.

*This was Google Maps' fault. "A" is where the map said I should be; "B" is approximately the correct location. As you can see, they are very different:

View Larger Map

Only a fortuitous confluence of two things led me to discover the actual location. First, my pride was at an ebb; second, the place Google led me to was, while not the Ward 1, Precinct 1 polling place, the location of a dry-cleaning shop, the proprietor of which a.) apparently arrives at work very early and b.) knew exactly where the Willmar Senior Citizens' Building was, for some happy reason. I couldn't be happier for Schwegman's Cleaners that their only review on Google Maps, now that I look, is a positive one.

Monday, November 03, 2008

oh, the prairie lights are burnin' bright, the chinook wind is a-movin' in

Tonight marks my return to seeing Minnesota as I first did - fenestrally, via my car and, as now, a hotel room with a parking lot view. (And pizza, natch.) The parking lot has a truly shocking number of Oldsmobiles in it. We're talking double digits. It's almost creepy.

The Oldsmobiles are located in the town of Willmar (rhymes with the pig in Charlotte's Web), seat of the county of Kandiyohi (you're starting to say the word "candidate," but you're excited to notice some old friends in the midst of saying the word and instantly attempt to attract their attention with "YO! Hi!"). It's about a hundred miles west of Minneapolis, closer to South Dakota than to the Metrodome.

I find myself here deployed by the presumably strategic whim of the Obama campaign, which does NOT say "Oh, thanks so much, but you really don't have to to do this!" when you offer to volunteer. Tomorrow I'm going to be a "poll challenger" here in Willmar, with strict instructions from the campaign not actually to challenge anybody, and to make sure my Republican counterpart doesn't do so (successfully), either.

I'm not woefully unprepared for this. And even if I were, I have a packet of Handy Reference Materials and a big smile that should see me through the day, which may in fact turn out to be eventful. There's a chicken plant here, staffed, one would imagine, by many immigrants of uncertain status, and Willmar was the site of one of those Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids a year or so ago. I reckon that folks here who're undocumented will have the sense not to call attention to themselves by showing up at the polls. There are probably also several perfectly legal and registered Hispanic or Somali voters around, and that'd be where I suspect problems will arise, if any do.

I'm gonna wear a red shirt, just to try and throw people off.

When they gave me the location assignment, I was pretty thrilled, because I figured this would be a good chance to explore the state some. (Even though I'd been hoping more for north than west.) What I had forgotten was that, because of the time change this weekend, it is PITCH FRIGGING BLACK when you start a mini-road trip at 6:00 p.m. But the trip was not devoid of fun! No, there were two notable incidents:

The first was in the blink-and-you-miss-it village of Darwin, where I'm guessing town's namesake is none too popular. My headlights were burning bright and true, and I am thankful for that, because they revealed a sign on the side of the road proudly proclaiming: "TWINE BALL MUSEUM."

You could Wiki that shit, but why not instead go to the TWINE BALL'S ACTUAL WEB SITE? It is of course

Oh God there's an online gift shop. I know what I want for Christmas.

The second incident took place in Litchfield. Driving through it, I was ready - for no real reason whatsoever - to proclaim it The Worst Town in America. That would've been entirely arbitrary. I didn't stop there at all. I just don't like the name, there was no twine ball, and the townscape was uninspiring and static as I drove through.

You don't appreciate how nice uninspiring and static can be until your rearview mirror springs to flashing, red-and-blue life. The cop was probably 40 or so, mustachioed (of course) and extremely chipper. I gave him my license and he took it back to his car while I rooted around for my insurance card. I was still rooting when he came back.

"Do you know what the posted speed limit is in town back there?"

"No, sir." (Not, in point of fact, a lie.)

"Okay, well, it's 30. I had you clocked at 43, sittin' in the parking lot of the Casey's there."

"Okay." I honestly don't know how fast I was going, but I was fully prepared for the number to start with a 5, so that was actually kind of a relief to me. I was also wondering if, given the fundraising records set this year, Barack might contribute to my cause, or at least refund my money so that I could.

"No luck finding that insurance card?"

"No, sir. I do have insurance, it's through GEICO..."

"You don't have anything? Expired, or anything?"

"Expired? Oh, sure, I've got one... two expired ones, last one just expired in September." Matt's seen my glove compartment and can attest to my keen filing system. There's probably proof of RX-7 insurance from 2001 in there.

"And all this information is the same now?"


"Okay, I'm just gonna give you a warning on the speed. Make sure you get a current insurance card and carry that with you. You slow down now, and have a good night."


Litchfield, Minnesota: The Best Town in America.

There are two clocks in my hotel room here. The one on the microwave says 12:08. The one on the alarm clock says 10:07.

The actual time is 11:05.

Someone must've thought, "Fall forward? Fall back? Is this Indiana, do we even do that?!" and panicked.

This is an unusually point-by-point post for me but is serving a therapeutic value in that I may be able to overcome my Election Day nerves - wholly unrelated to my duties tomorrow - and sleep tonight.

More pronunciations:

Ely: EEL-ee, as if you were describing something that was like an eel
Excelsior: Excel-zhur
Mahtomedi: Mah-toe-MEE-die
Eric Decker: STUD-lee

If I did that question-answering-mosaic thing, for my first name I'd try to find a picture of somebody plowing Elizabeth Banks. Right?