Category Archives: Minneapolis

Return To Our Home Town

I owe my life to the doctors, nurses, and support staff at the University of Minnesota Hospital.  My delicate and at the time pioneering emergency heart surgery was performed as JoAnne (the editor) was giving birth to our daughter Rachael at HCMC hospital. It was fall 1979, our second year in Minnesota.  I was teaching in Bloomington and we lived in a cozy house on 34th Street between Humboldt and Irving.  Thanks to new friends and neighbors, the three of us regained our balance. In the summer of 1982 we added (with considerably less chaos) another child, our dear son Ben.  In 1985, needing more space, we moved north ten blocks to a house again just off Humboldt, this time near Lake of the Isles.  That was the wonderful growing-up home that the kids remember.  We have happy memories, many centered around  Barton Open School, a K-8 adventure that provided Rachael and Ben with an excellent foundation of learning.

In about fifth grade our daughter began modeling for the Susan Wehmann agency near Loring Park. This lead, a few years later, to an introduction to a fairy godmother who provided her acting opportunities in Hollywood. Meanwhile Ben decided on UC Santa Cruz for college (Go Banana Slugs!).  JoAnne and I were frozen empty nesters.  Rachael settled in Los Angeles; with very little encouragement we followed.  In 2004 she married New Zealand actor Daniel Gillies.  Many years later, I am still writing for my dear friends, the writers and readers of the Hill and Lake Press, while living in southern California.

The Twin Cities Film Fest in St. Louis Park (October 18-28) is showing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Rachael plays Hermia.  She has been invited to the October 28th screening.  The Film Fest folks did not realize this would unleash a  Kunta Kinte Roots-like reaction in our family.  The adults have been back a number of times, but now there are fresh young eyes and two big new reasons to come home.  Charlotte is four and full of questions, and Theo at two is just full of… zest.  (I had to promise not to immerse the children in the lake before being allowed to come). We are very excited to show them where mom and uncle Ben grew up.

We hardly know where to start:  Uptown, skyways, bridges, Triangle Park, Lake of the Isles, the Sculpture Garden, Minnehaha Creek, our old house…  I am voting for train and bus rides and other unique non-LA activities.  If you see a winded older man chasing two children racing through the neighborhood while kicking autumn leaves, the old guy might be me.  We want to show the kids a land that is not palm trees and traffic.  And dare we hope for rain?  Whatever the weather, we are excited to introduce Charlotte and Theo to the town that nurtured us, and that we still call home.

Tom H. Cook is aware that his daunting and ambitious plans for the visit could be undone by crankiness and the need for naps.  Tom has vowed to do his best.

Minneapolis in Mid-September

What a wonderful week to come home.  Minneapolis in mid-September has always been one of my favorite times.  The lush trees and cool air, the young families (many with requisite lab or golden retriever), and most everyone’s pace is of hurried optimism.  Winter is coming, but not yet.

I have always loved to show off Minneapolis, whether to stray relatives, old friends from college, or friends of friends.  Even driving somewhere alone I would frequently play tour guide in my mind.  When Rachael returned for a wedding along with her husband Daniel, a New Zealander who had never been to Minnesota, it was the ultimate challenge.  I wanted him to see everything.  Working against my rapidly evolving plan was Rachael’s mortification at me dragging him off, and Daniel’s desperate need for sleep, something he had had almost none of for three days.  The kids also had a commitment with friends and a dash to the airport.  I had one hour.

We began at the old house.  It pays to sell to friends.  Barb and Alan welcomed us to 24th and Humboldt.  Poking around, showing off the still preserved height marks of growing children, and seeing the changes and improvements through Daniel’s eyes was fulfilling, but Tom the Taskmaster had more to point out, and the clock was running.

Flying out the door, we passed Walter and Joan Mondale’s house.  I wanted the Kiwi to see that at least one former U.S. vice president doesn’t need guards, a gated estate, and opulent surroundings.  The lakes impressed him immediately.  By the fourth lake and despite my running narrative and erratic driving he was ready to call a realtor.

JoAnne would have wanted to stop at the elf tree at Lake Harriet, or just walk peacefully around Isles, but she was visiting friends, and I am a quantity over quality guide.  We passed the beautiful mosaic at Lakewood cemetery, but it received short shrift compared to the Lake of the Isles dog park.  We raced and chased on a beautiful late summer afternoon.  Daniel was impressed by the number of people smiling (unlike in LA).  Dropping them off in Uptown as I pointed out Magers and Quinn and the Apple store, the kids forgave my exuberance.  I called out that Minneapolis has free WiFi as they sprinted away.  It is hard to do twenty-five years in an hour.

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The rest of the week was spent more leisurely.  Reminiscing, seeing old friends, going to garage sales, biking the lakes, it was great to be back.  JoAnne returned to The Minnesota Textile Center which has become the finest in the nation in our nine years away.  As a fiber artist it brings her as much joy as I feel watching a baseball game at Target Field.  On the flight back to LA, JoAnne smiled wistfully and said,”I miss Minnesotans.”


Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer now stationed in southern California.  He realizes that he occasionally needs to abandon the bloody pulpit for more local observations.  He was particularly impressed that the (Cursetown) Crosstown/35W no longer does. 

Ben and Tom Hiking

The Road Not Taken

There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.
–Erich Fromm

I am from Iowa.  I lived there until I was 24…  I didn’t know you were allowed to leave.
–Jake Johannsen (San Francisco comic)

I guess one person can make a difference, but most of the time, they probably shouldn’t
–Marge Simpson

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both                                  —Robert Frost   (The Road Not Taken) 

Free will is a terrifying notion especially when you exercise it.  I hesitate to broach the subject because the odds are astronomically high that I will come off sounding clueless and self serving, a departure from my petty and ingracious nature.  Coming back to Minnesota brings out deeply conflicted feelings I harbor about leaving my adopted home.  When I talk with friends whose families made huge life changing moves, there were usually Cossacks involved in the decision.  For JoAnne and me, it was a heart wrenching choice that was not influenced by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.  My new life (eight years already) is filled with friends, activities, and as much meaning as I am likely to find in southern California.

I make it harder by visiting in early October (note to self, come back in February).  There is nothing more enjoyable than wandering the streets of Minneapolis on a beautiful fall day. I walked Lake of the Isles, the Greenway, and the newest incarnation of Calhoun Square.  For those who take HLP land for granted as I once did, the bustle of young people, the abundance of dogs, and the leaves beginning to turn can’t help but imbued one with a sense of optimism.

Even my friends with little interest in sports have been to the new Twins stadium.  Their joy and civic pride is so evident that I couldn’t help but smile.   Minnesotans look for ways to build community, and Target Field is a good example.  After I went to a game (a 13-2 drubbing by Toronto) I was so in awe of the experience, I happily leaped on the bandwagon.  Still challenges abound.  Which highway entrances and exits are not under construction?  How do you get across town without Crosstown?  There are many, many houses for sale, yet coming from bankrupt California, the local economy looks fairly healthy.

I sense I am avoiding the existential question.  Should a decision of the magnitude of where to live be left to someone so quixotic, and ill informed?  I was a (very) young Republican.  I attended a Mamas and Papas concert.  I bought Circuit City stock at 42.   I wore bell bottoms for goodness sake.  I didn’t install it, but I lived with orange shag carpeting.  What would suggest that I am an informed decision maker?

The more I consider it, the question is not happiness or fulfillment.  JoAnne and I love our life in California while we miss our old house, friends, and the spirit of the neighborhood.  I am occasionally (all right daily) dwarfed by the decision.  I am not suggesting a Politburo, or even a 5.2 computer software update to guide our major life choices, comrade.  It is just difficult having no one to blame.  Moving states doesn’t compare to religious conversion, changing genders, launching a new career, or enlisting in the military. Where do people with options find the strength to roll the dice and commit to a new life?  After eight years I am still whining about missing the fall colors.


  Tom H. Cook was disappointed to see the Twins season end so ignobly.  After eight years he is still whining about missing the fall colors.  







Minnesota Summer Quiz

It is finally real summer and what could be more fun than relaxing on the veranda at your lake place up north, or in a hammock at home?  You have the Twins game on in the background, your cold drink nearby, a dog or small child curled up at your feet, and you are working on the Minnesota Summer Quiz.

Rank the following summer activities, all occurring next weekend, in order of importance:

  1. A surprise seventy-fourth birthday party for great-uncle Gustav at the Muskrat Lodge in Boldfinger, MN (a 9-hour drive).
  2. The fourth anniversary of the third communion of your second cousin’s stepchild in Chaska.  To be held in the church parking lot on the 107 degree asphalt.
  3. Lisa Goodman-initiated two-day community retreat/workshop on the advantages and disadvantages of Minnesota establishing a unicameral state legislature.  Emile Mullen, Nebraska State auditor (and amateur mime), will provide a Power Point presentation and lead what promises to be a spirited discussion.
  4. Interfaith car wash and scrap metal drive.  Volunteers from most of the world’s greatest religions (monotheists only — sorry), through sweat and hard labor will raise funds and awareness.

Short essay: Explain how, despite your better judgement and every fiber of your being, you will end up spending one of your precious summer weekends at one or more of the above events.

If Billy (age 9) takes his X-Box and hides under the house, is he following your suggestion to “Get out and get some fresh air!”  Why or why not?  (Short answer).

Billy (still 9) would be better off at Camp Whitchebehomac.  The cost is $1,200.00.  Canceling Billy’s tuba lessons for the summer would save $200.00.  You have another $380.00 from lottery winnings.  Billy’s Aunt Ethel says she will donate two times the amount Billy raises from collecting cans.  Uncle Jasper says he will pay Billy $17.00 to detail his truck and $4,000.00 to move his hunting shack from Elk River to Big Spider Bay (Wisconsin).  Billy has no desire to go to camp or even leave the house.  How old will Billy be when he goes to camp?

  1. Uncle Jasper has a screw loose.  Nobody wants his glorified outhouse up in Big Spider Bay!
  2. Billy hates the tuba, hates Aunt Ethel, and will be shaving and able to drive himself to camp by the time he gets the money.
  3. Aunt Ethel has more money than God! She spends more on electrolysis every year than his camp tuition would cost!  If she doesn’t want to help the kid she should just say so!!!
  4. Billy is lactose intolerant and allergic to cows, cowboys, milkmaids, leather, got milk ads, rawhide chewtoys, cowlicks, and “The Cowsills.”

Is it morally wrong to watch television indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the summer? (Short answer).  (Hint Leviticus 7: 3-14)

What is the span of time between the last possible day of the snow season and the first of the next?  (Answer in hours)_______.

Do you wish you had gone to a friend’s cabin while you are sitting at the Lake Harriet Bandshell?  When you are “antiquing” in Stillwater do you wish you were napping in your hammock on Humboldt? Explain this phenomena.  (Essay)

Neighbor Lance bikes 20 miles if it is between 60 and 70 degrees.  If it is between 71 and 90 degrees he travels 15 miles.  If it is above 90 degrees he plays X-Box under the house.  During a typical July, how many miles will Lance ride?  (Hint, July has 31 days).

  1. Is it the Lance on Fremont who practically lives in those lime green bike shorts?
  2. Is it miles or square miles? (There may be a difference.)178
  3. Does Lance (L) come home at night (L-1/2) or does he keep going  (L+20 or L+30 X31)?

If he keeps going south he would reach Winona on July 17th.

Aunt Edna is over for dinner but says she will remain in the back yard drinking Cutty Sark until she receives > 4 mosquito bites per hour.  If she comes in at 9:30 PM, how much has she drunk?

  1. Who can tell? She has a hollow leg.
  2. I still can’t believe she wouldn’t buy Billy an X-Box.
  3. She waters down the drinks.  I doubt it’s Cutty Sark.
  4. Wrap her dinner in aluminum foil and leave it in the refrigerator!!!

Which is the worst nonfatal family reunion summer picnic extravaganza memory?

  1. “Bike shorts” Lance crashes the party and tries to put a move on your recently divorced niece.
  2. Uncle Jasper offers Billy $5.00 if he will come out from under the house and have some ice cream.
  3. Aunt Edna claims she doesn’t want to miss anything so she squats behind the neighbors’ shrubs rather than use the house bathroom all the way on the second floor.
  4. The meat runs out early and many of the late arrivals are offered yummy grilled potato salad patties.
  5. After being discharged from the hospital, Billy resumes his summer vigil under the house and refuses Aunt Edna’s offer of a little Cutty Sark in a Star Wars glass.


Tom H. Cook has begun plotting a fall visit to the Twin Cities.




Empty Nesters

JoAnne and I have been official empty nesters since our son Ben left for the University of California/Santa Cruz in the fall of 2000.  In his freshman year he met Erin, a wonderful young woman.  Since then they have spent their junior year abroad together in Edinburgh, Scotland, graduated from college, moved to L.A, and have each found jobs in their respective fields.  It is beginning to sink in that our little Benny Two-fingers is not coming back home for anything other than a visit.  My vigil is ending, and the light I keep burning in the window is only attracting raccoons.

We call him “The Boy” and JoAnne knew seven years ago that he would not be back.  I realized on a practical level that little Benny was now Ben, and despite the hours of wisdom I had yet to impart, he would not be receiving it at my knee, or while bivouacked in the guest bedroom in our rather small California home.  Still, when Ben and Erin informed us this winter that they were house-hunting, it seemed like such a big step.

During the search, thanks to modern technology, JoAnne and I received copies of the listings and could make suggestions. We would frequently receive a bemused or bewildered call from Ben.  He and Erin had wisely ruled out vast acreage, iffy neighborhoods, and zip codes that were too pricey.  Still, viewing what they could almost afford was an education.  Erin was surprised by what a clever realtor defined as a breakfast nook.  Like the Henny Youngman line, at one open house they saw a closet that was a nail. They walked through houses that would need to be painted before they could be condemned, and depressingly, they were a financial stretch.

We laughed about the Woody Allen bit from his early film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.  The vignette featured emcee Jack Barry and panelist Robert Q. Lewis trying to guess “What’s My Perversion?” a parody of “What’s My Line?.”  I suggested similarly that any house they could approach affording would have a giant quirk.  The game would be to identify the hideous flaw.  The scoring rules were vague, but if you could spot the weirdness on-line, no one had to visit the property.  If the photos and enticing language fooled them, they would have to explore this too good to be true home.  If they were able to drag me all the way up in freeway traffic to see a place that hadn’t been inhabited since the Manson family, points were awarded.

Whether it was seven foot ceilings, being directly on a fault line, or the added expense of purchasing monthly protection from the Crips/Bloods, Erin and Ben would have to compromise.  Particularly in California, finding an oddity that can be re-framed as charming, unique, or at least tolerable was their only chance.  As one realtor suggested, “Sometimes you gotta kiss a lot of frogs.”  They were not deterred.  They considered everything from a downtown L.A. industrial loft to a house built on top of a giant rock with a fifty-step switchback front entrance and chickens in the back yard. (No exaggeration.)

Finally they found a 1930s Spanish style house with a large deck and a sweeping vista of the surrounding hills in Silver Lake.  The character flaw: it was only 800 square feet.  Easy to clean they decided. Ben was smitten.  Silver Lake reminded him of home.  Like South Minneapolis, it is near downtown but with a neighborhood feel.  It is artsy, tree-lined, hilly, and filled with eclectic architecture from the 1920s and 30s.  Erin, a Californian from the Bay Area, loved the winding narrow streets and the intimacy of the neighborhood.

The kids wisely chose to paint the entire interior of the house before moving in any furniture.  JoAnne and I were both on the painting crew, along with a number of their friends.  On occasion I found myself watching and not working.  Granted, I am fairly lazy, but I was observing the easy banter, affection, and the hard work everyone was putting forth.  It was bittersweet hearing Ben share inside jokes with friends on topics I cannot grasp.  While it was wonderful to witness the support system he and Erin have built in the big city, it was also a time to realize I will not be pushing Little Benny in the tire swing I never got around to setting up on Humboldt Avenue.


Tom H. Cook, lacking cable, may be the last person to have discovered “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC.  Thanks to YouTube, Olbermann’s sagacious, well reasoned, and fearless commentaries are preserved.  When our national nightmare ends he is one individual who will not have to be embarrassed or feel guilty for not having done enough.  If you have not already done so, please check out his stirring missives. 

Tom’s Unabridged Version of History

Judge not, that ye be not judged.                       — Mathew, chapter 7 verse 1

 I am waist-deep in my four-month stint as a teacher of U.S. History at a local high school.  The work is challenging, exciting, and exhausting.  Evaluating student performance is a daunting task.  An amusing side effect of the job is that I now continually think in questions.  Whether clumsily attempting to be Socratic, or merely hoping to probe what my students know my students, I am continually offering options of which at least one is absurd.  In this case they all are.  This is an abridged version of the history that runs through my brain and is never uttered to my students because, with my luck, it would be all that they remember.

 The Great Wall of China is

  1. now offering take-out service
  2. plastered with advertisements for “The Gap” and J. Crew
  3. 447 feet to dead center
  4. merely a metaphor for Paul Simon’s neurotic musings about relationships

Ferdinand de Lesseps is

  1. a useful alias when traveling incognito
  2. not to be confused with Fernando Llamas
  3. likely to stir a vague connection to a bull with those over forty
  4. chairman of your high school reunion and coincidentally an Allstate representative

Aaron Burr

  1. is also known as “Ironsides”
  2. has had Minnesota vanity  plates since before cars
  3. was the first vice president to play with firearms
  4. played physician Thad Wheatley on the long-running soap “Not Quite Right”

 Washington Irving  

  1. is a power forward accounting major at Michigan State  
  2. was traded by the Chicago Bulls for Gunnar Myrdalc.        
  3. sued to keep a Baltimore suburb from naming a housing development after his best known works
  4. is very dyslexic     
  5. has nothing on David Lloyd George

The Treaty of Ghent (1814)

  1. featured a ban on the usage of silent letters in future agreements
  2. called for unlimited barbeque sauce with any entrée $14.95 or more
  3. was costly to the Hapsburgs, who had agreed to host the signing and were forced to forfeit their down payment on a hall
  4. was a ruse initiated by Josephine to throw Napoleon a surprise birthday party                                                                                

Which name does not belong with the others?

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. Kublai Khan
  5. George W. Bush
  6. 4 and 5 but mostly 5

This landmark Supreme Court decision established the precedent of judicial review

  1. Marbury v. Madison (1803)     
  2. Paper v. Plastic (1957) 
  3. Ostrogoths v. Visigoths (372)   
  4. E. Post v. M. Manners (1990)

Winfrey v. J. Franzen (2000)“Jacksonian Democracy” is associated with which figure?

  1. Jesse Jackson
  2. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson 
  3.   “Action” Jackson
  4. Jackson Pollock
  5. Janet Jackson


Tom H. Cook waxes nostalgic for fall in Minnesota.  Just like forty years ago, he doesn’t have a date for the big homecoming game.   











Minnesota Winter Quiz

What follows is a Minnesota quiz.  Answers will be printed in the spring or when we feel the promised “trickle down” of Super Bowl money, whichever comes first.  Be sure to choose the answer that is most correct.

Example:  Which of the following could be termed the worst natural disaster?

  1. Hurricane Camille, 1969, (Louisiana, Mississippi)
  2. San Francisco Earthquake, 1906, (California)
  3. Galveston Flood, 1900, (Texas)
  4. Any Minnesota Winter


Hurricane Camille killed 24 and left 20,000 homeless.  The San Francisco earthquake destroyed much of the beautiful city, killed 600, and left 300,000 homeless.  Six thousand died and property damage exceeded $17 Million in the Galveston flood.  Remember, though, the question asked was which was the worst disaster.  A, B, and C, were horrible disasters in their time, but they were one shot deals.  Visit all four of these areas this February and you will see that the answer is D.

There is a heavy snowfall on Friday evening commencing at 11:00 pm.  You should

              1. Remain in your car until on official snow emergency is declared.
              2. Park on the odd-numbered side of an East/West street.
              3. Leave your car where it is but be prepared to move it before 7:00 am Saturday.
              4. Park on the even side of the street because your license plate ends in a vowel.
              5. Insufficient information.

Mr. Johnson, 48, has recently purchased a Toro Snowblower Model DLC-X for $479.00.  If Richie (age 12) charged $3.00 to shovel Mr. Johnson’s walk, how many years will it take Mr. Johnson’s heirs to recoup the investment if gas remains at $1.20 per gallon?

  1. It depends on if it’s the Mr. Johnson on Emerson Avenue
  2. It depends on if Richie goes to the ‘U’ and lives at home
  3. $1.20 a gallon, I’ll bet!
  4. B and C

 New down gloves for Billy (age 11) cost $22.95.  Billy’s Aunt Harriet says she will pay $5.00 toward the gloves.  Billy’s mother finds a coupon for 15% off on the gloves at Daytons.  Billy’s dad says he will contribute 1-1/2 times as much as Aunt Harriet toward the gloves.  How long will it be until Billy loses the gloves?

____ (answer in hours)

____ (answer in minutes)

Which of the following is the least likely to return to the Twin Citie?

  1. Jack Morris
  2. John Denver
  3. Professional basketball
  4. Professional football

Which novel would best help a Californian relate to (understand) the Minnesota winter experience

  1. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  2. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  3. Alive by Paul Piers Reid
  4. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  5. All of the Above

Sam shovels 9” of snow on Friday, 11” on Sunday and 16” on Wednesday.  Why doesn’t he take his brother’s offer to join him in the fabric business in Phoenix?  (short answer)

The current reason that the Vikings can not win the Super Bowl is…

  1. Parity
  2. They would have to put up with Sid Hartman for an extra month.
  3. They have become accustomed to artificial light and can not adapt to ‘natural conditions’.
  4. The other teams in their division are so pathetic that they appear adequate by comparison.

Essay:  Explain the difference between wet cold and dry cold.  Discuss how Minnesotans lived before the wind chill was invented.


 Tom H. Cook is a very local and often chilly humorist.


Local Sales

In Minnesota the telephone poles are just beginning to bloom with iridescent signs exhorting one and all to come to Logan, Chowen, or Humboldt Avenue from 8-4.  After a winter spent looking at the same old stuff, it is time for spring cleaning and a purge of things that no one in his right mind would want.  There is a natural rhythm and cycle to the gathering and casting away of stones and fondue pots.  I believe The Old Testament and the Byrds each addressed the seasonal need to sow and reap.  Yes, aside from many friends and neighbors, I miss Minneapolis garage sales most of all.

Since moving to southern California almost two years ago I have been trying to figure out what the locals do with their unwanted possessions.  After attending what residents call garage sales in the South Bay, I am still stumped.  A typical sale will consist of very used and worn clothing scattered in the driveway.  At high class sales the same beat-up clothes are strewn on a sheet on the driveway.  There are three or five plastic patio chairs stacked together because at least one of them will be missing a leg.   Aside from Reader’s Digest and copies of Barry Goldwater’s  “None Dare Call It Treason” there is no literature.  The plastic cups and dishes have teeth marks in them, and the boxes of ribald cocktail napkins are too new to be kitsch.  There are jigsaw puzzles that, how do I say this tactfully, were previously owned by a local hospital. The cookware looks as if it were discarded by Rommel, and the automobile transmission (1986 Chevy) which graces the steps is beyond my comprehension.  There are videogames in strange cartridges, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums, and sets of sheets that appear to have been slept on by visiting Hell’s Angels.  The rest of the stuff is junk.

I am part anthropologist, and part busybody.  The last thing I need is more stuff, but I am obsessed with what these Californians who have 1,600 square foot homes and no basements and no attics do with their “leftovers.”  With the seasons pretty much the same, there is less impetus to do spring cleaning, but I cannot believe these folks are so highly evolved they do not acquire more than they need.  I still have not solved the mystery, but I picked up a significant clue recently.

Local sales are not good, but a small part of the reason is they are picked over early in the morning.  Minnesota has its “sharpies” and people who buy to resell, but they would be eaten alive and their Volvos turned over out here.  The term of not quite endearment is “coyote.” Coyotes will hit a sale and abscond with the dorm size refrigerator, the mostly working television, and the cut glass pitcher, while civilians are looking for a legal parking place.

Next month:  I track the coyotes to their lair and find some pretty good stuff

California Governor Schwarzenegger is behind the still tepid movement to allow foreign born naturalized citizens to run for  president.  Arnold is not content with Sacramento and is eying the presidency in 2008. I would suggest a rider to his amendment which would prohibit a son from becoming president if his father once held the office.  The current George Bush stated that Saddam Hussein “tried to kill my daddy.”  This post 9/11 remark has stuck with me.  This, along with the information Richard Clarke has added, makes it appear that over 500 American lives have been lost in Iraq in part because of a feud involving Bush the Elder.


Tom H. Cook still has a Minnesota AAA card and is at heart a Midwesterner.  

Multiple Choice

Now that I am teaching English in a high school, every situation is a potential multiple-choice question.  For example:

  1.  Tom and JoAnne live in a small beach house near the Pacific Ocean.  What would most enhance their appreciation of Southern California living
    a.  two one-speed bubble tire “beach cruiser” bicycle
    b.   a six-person hot tub set in a secluded back yard
    c.   a blue Miata convertible circa 1990
    d.   a backyard chimenea (fireplace) for ocean-cooled evenings
    e.   Teresa, JoAnne’s mother, taking up permanent residence in the guest room

If you answered “e” to Question 1, please proceed to Questions 2-10.

2. Teresa is a sweet 80 year old grandmother whose hobbies include

a.  folding plastic bags
b.  ironing
c.  collecting string
d.  cutting strips of cloth into string
e.  all of the above

3.  Her ideal room temperature is

a.  98.6
b.  the same as curing ham
c.  not calculable in Celsius
d.  warm, for anyone not living directly on the Equator
e.  one that would produce Cumulous clouds and aerographic precipitation

4.  As a child of the Great Depression she is

a.  thrifty
b.  economical
c.  adverse to throwing anything away
d.  able to find multiple uses for old stockings
e.  so tight she squeaks

5.   A hearty lunch consists of

a.  the bruised portion of a pear and one half of a Grape Nuts individual cereal pack
b.  the heel of a loaf of whole wheat bread with every seed carefully removed
c.  the doggie bag from a restaurant meal
d.  the doggie bag leftovers Part II
e.  half a breakfast bar carefully saved from an airplane flight (2002)

6.   If you need a calendar (to keep track of your medication) it is best to

a.  attempt to draw one on scrap paper
b.  have someone drive you from bank to bank to see if anyone is giving them out
c.  use a discarded one from 2003 , figure out the formula and hope it is not Leap Year
d.  wait until they are almost free in April and look for a damaged one the store will deep        discount
e.  work clockwise and find seven flat surfaces.  Put a day’s worth of pills on each.  If this is      the dresser it must be Tuesday

7.  If  I am napping soundly on the couch, Teresa will

a.  tiptoe and hover about so quietly I wake up
b.  wake me to ask if I am comfortable or would I like a firmer pillow
c.  state that I do not look comfortable and would I like my feet tucked in
d.  wake me from a dead sleep to ask if I want the television turned off
e.  wake me to ask if I know I am sleeping as she wouldn’t want me to get in trouble for            missing something.  She does not realize it is Sunday because the cat has knocked her        pills off of the end table and I forgot to bring home a calendar from work.

8.  If you spill a small amount of salt it can be saved in

a.  a square of wax paper
b.  an empty pre-rinsed individual mustard container
c.  a corner of aluminum foil
d.  a tiny Tupperware container
e.  almost anything.  The problem is someone else finding it and not knowing what it is and throwing it away only to be asked the next time you are taking a nap where the little bit of salt that was in the cabinet could be.

9.  Teresa is saving her money for

a.  her old age
b.  my old age
c.  the Chinese Year of The Dog
d.  the Apocalypse
e.  the next George Bush administration

10.  A bowl of ice cream must be eaten until

a.  sparks fly from the eating utensil
b.  much of the glaze in the bowl has been loosened
c.  DNA testing could no longer determine the flavor ice cream
d.  the bowl is cleaner than most dishwashers could get it
e.  the bowl is forcibly wrenched from her hands and filled again with ice cream

Tom H. Cook, a long time Minnesotan, has escaped to sunny California, along with his wife, his mother-in-law and the two boxers Stella and Cowboy. 

Last Chance Post Mortem

It’s late September and I really should be back in school –Rod Stewart  (in Maggie May)

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.   –attributed to Vince Lombardi

Now maybe I’ll be able to get that song out of my head and concentrate on “The Arnold.”  It is late September here in California, and while it is early to do a post-mortem with the election a week away, it is my last chance.  Politics long considered one of the last bastions of geeky, pale, weasel-faced, high school debate club presidents is about to fall.  By the time you read this, Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely be bench pressing a podium — Gray Davis–or he’ll be challenging reporters to punch him in the stomach as hard as they can. Oh yes, and he will be Governor-elect of California.

The Minnesota connection makes us unindicted co-conspirators.  Schwarzenegger is frequently compared to Jesse Ventura, the other freewheeling, steroid-using, self-confessed 70s wild man.  Californians do this to cite precedent and to reassure themselves that what they are doing makes sense.  The first time some co-workers earnestly suggested this to me I was eating lunch and milk came out of my nose.  I attempted to explain the continual limit-testing Jesse had done. Whether it was moonlighting on weekends for the XFL, talking to Playboy magazine, or the use of the mansion, Jesse forced us into the role of parenting our petulant political prodigy.

Jesse really wanted unicameral government and mass transit.  One of which is still a good idea. Arnold is richer, tanner, bolder, and far more dangerous.  We are consoled that he cannot constitutionally become president and will have to settle for California, the world’s fifth largest economy.  He is Machiavellian, ego-driven, ambitious, and cunning.  Unfortunately his narcissism seems to be an end and not a means.  He appears to have no ideology beyond winning.  Granted, the list of selfless politicians is short, but Schwarzenegger seems to take particular glee in subjugating others to his torrid will.

The Arnold has completely revised his early steroid use, womanizing, and questionable business ethics.  He is a Hummer lover, and the metaphor is perfect, particularly if you have ever sat next to one while in a Miata  at a stop light.  A quirky short term race for Sacramento is perfectly geared to garner him mass exposure.    It is form over substance: “Getting Elected Governor For Dummies.” Perhaps we are all ADD, and this is as long as we can concentrate.  I fear my adopted state is making an impulsive decision we will all regret, and the poor will pay.  In which case I will be back as soon as Minnesotans disarm.

I may be overreacting, and Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, Richard Simmons (accountant), Mary Carey (porn star), the 105 year old woman, or even Gray Davis may have won.  In that case, let me echo the words of Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live: “Never mind.”

Tom H. Cook is missing a real Minnesota autumn.  He also remembers–all too clearly–what comes next.