National 43-571

•October 24, 2014 • 2 Comments

“Why write at all?”National1

—Was scrawled in pencil on the Wilson Jones daily planner page for Wednesday, June 10, 1981.

Two days before, I’d written a complete entry in blue-black fountain pen. It begins: “Summer life—led in ‘quiet desperation.’”

Back in the fold of the Family Project, I was living at the new farm in Minnetrista, Minn., and just shy of a sheepskin after two years of community college.

It must’ve been something of a readjustment.

Monday, June 8, was “a slow, cloudy day.” I borrowed the family car and drove out to Excelsior where “I applied for a job at the Minnetonka Sailor Newspapers.” It didn’t look good: “…they can’t hire until the end of summer.”

Having not showered for the day and hungry, I then “drove out to the PDQ to look for a quart of milk, a can of Coke & a quick meatball sandwich. Found only a quart of milk. In front of me was … a pretty blonde. After a while & a good look, it turned out to be Kim. We chatted by checkout, my hair unwashed—probably seemed greasy … we walked outside—before we parted I asked her if I could call her …Sure!

The more I thought about reconciliation, the more hesitant I was to follow up. “I am trying to negate those feelings,” the entry reveals.

Three days later, I still hadn’t called her. “I think that I’m afraid to. I think I don’t want to get bogged in the old swamp of misunderstanding I clearly remember we used to get into … I tell myself just to forget her entirely & live on my own, but now I’m in Mound for God knows how long…”

“Perhaps I’m being too introspective lately,” the entry continues. “Is there such a thing? I sleep every chance I get & I dream profusely. Socially sad to say, but I think I’m beginning to like sleeping my life away, being neither here nor there.”

That fall I’d turn 22. So, I could’ve been experiencing depression for the first time, aggravated by all the sudden change. I admitted as much at the time: “The anxiety of finding a job hangs gloomily above my head! Where to work? Mound Printers? Some Factory God Knows Where? Downtown Mpls? I hate that American Capitalistic World out there. It’s like an oppressively bad dream for the free inquisitive mind…”

—and with that the Wilson Jones pages end.

I needed another place to write and think.

So that’s when I turned to a ruled, page-numbered chemistry book produced by National, item number 43-571. It was likely purchased at the Lakewood College bookstore before I left that spring.

The first entry was July 20, 1981—less in a journal format at the start and just more random thoughts, story ideas and, well, generally, whining:

“I can never die. I want to see every corner of the world. I want to write with confidence.”

“The above, while being largely true, again proves me to be a liar. I’m not satisfied with anything.”

“I think about death and dying a lot.”

“Many times I feel I want to say: ‘I do not believe there is a God.’ Or ‘We do not need a God, there is nothing one needs to do with a God…’ but in the same I’m terrified by the thought of no God. No God, no order, no order: no home, no love that lasts.”

Later I returned to the July entries with a pencil and commented: “Don’t be stupid.”

Regarding Charles and Diana’s nuptials, I wrote: “Royalty weds today and the whole thing smacks of romance and innocence. Nevertheless loneliness comically beats against itself and pants like a blind dog for more food—food for its dark soul.”

…Adding, “But this is just words…”

I’d penciled in, “Yep it sure is.”

I wasn’t writing every day, as I had with my earlier diaries. And that was the problem. I’d become the diarist version of flabby. The entries were all in fits and starts—continuing that way through the summer of 1982 and ending on page 20 (of 124 total pages in the book).

As a journal, it was an utter failure.

But I was learning I needed the outlet. I had to write.

And I would eventually buy another National 43-571 and start all over again.

The Wasp

•October 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The WaspA dream.

—And two Saturdays, nearly a month apart: April 25 and May 16, 1981.

Both were noted, absent a formal diary or journal, in a Wilson Jones Daily Reminder book I’d cobbled together during the first half of that year.

The April entry described a dream from that morning, which I titled “The Wasp”:

I was the passive observer of a little tale, a very vivid impression, which seemed to take place on a Polynesian island. …Two huts, side by side, two native families. To my left, two sons; to my right, a mother, her daughter, and a few small children. The daughter is scheduled to be wed to the eldest son of the other family, but she falls in love with the youngest, and he with her.

They stand in the shallows of the ocean together … I watched them [as I was] sitting and leaning back against the wall on the porch of a hut. I looked out at the wide plain of water, which was only a foot or two deep, and could see all the way clearly to the grasses on the sea’s floor.

In the enormous, brilliant sky, a large black cloud bled the sky like India ink spilling upward.

And then a beautiful melody comes into my head, with no effort I sit there and listen to it as one would listen to recorded music in headphones. I knew it came from myself; it was beautiful, not sad, very bright tempo—it ended perfectly. Then another tune swept into my head, not as good as the first. I stopped it.

A wasp comes buzzing along and stings the girl’s mother on the shoulder.

I dive into [the ocean] and lay under the shallow water. Sea grasses caress my face.

***

On May 16, I met Mom in Minneapolis, where she had agreed to help buy clothes for my forthcoming graduation from Lakewood.

“We didn’t have much luck,” the entry reports. “We had a big lunch at the top of the Dayton’s building, then she bought me a pair of khaki pants and a shirt at Donaldson’s. There was a Scandinavian Parade or something going on in downtown Mpls.”

By 3 p.m. I’d hopped a bus back to St. Paul, then transferred to the Maplewood Mall, not arriving until close to 6 p.m. “I’d missed the 15D to Mahtomedi,” the entry continues, “but a beautiful blonde high school girl from Mahtomedi was in the same boat, so she offered me a ride with a friend of hers named Julie, an equally beautiful brunette, from Julie’s mother.”

I vaguely recall that day.

Bright new changes were ahead that spring: college graduation, then home again to Minnetrista—and likely looking for a job. However pleasant the encounter with the two girls, “I regret to say,” the entry concludes, “I didn’t get the blonde’s name. Julie’s mother dropped me off at Paul’s East Shore Grocery, where I bought a can of Coke and walked the rest of the way home. The blonde and I seemed to say, as I got out of the Honda, a special goodbye.”

***

There’s something to all this—some connection my subconscious dearly wants to make between a strange dream, a lunch date with my late mother, and a chance encounter over 30 years ago. And maybe a lesson (unlearned?) about the lingering nature of regret.

Who was this “eldest daughter”? Was she the main character in The Green House, my entirely unwritten novel from that time? And what about the two sons, the youngest of which wins her heart? “They stand in the shallows of the water together…” Perhaps they were holding hands and gazing at the ocean. Then that melody begins, after the ominous black cloud appears in the sky.

“A wasp comes buzzing along and stings the girl’s mother on the shoulder…”

Where, I wonder, is Julie’s mother today? Whatever happened to Julie, the brunette, and her lovely best friend? How have their lives turned out?

And how I wish that May entry had more details about the “big lunch” with Mom. What did we eat? What did we talk about? Where was she in her life at that very moment? She would’ve been 46—eight years younger than I am now. Was she happy? Or maybe a bit sad that her eldest son was soon leaving home?

Fleeting moments, pausing in the present—then rushing by like waves above a shallow ocean floor.

Desire, then regret. Hesitation, followed by forgetting.

A face on the bus smiles shyly at you—then it’s gone. Or maybe you’re smiling because you had a moment, and something remained—a name, a phone number or address—to push that fragile moment toward an uncertain future.

Or, climbing out of a Honda in the spring of 1981, an unspoken acknowledgment of desire and regret—maybe stinging like a wasp?

Where did these dreams exist, if they ever existed at all, until now?

Live From the Moon! (Part 2)

•October 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

[Last of a two-part post.]

It was dedicated to my old friend Lisa Tepley.

The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities started with a bang:

Encylo_cover

Dear Reader! You hypocrite reader!
—my double,—my brother! Your
eyes attend to this fragment,

an
ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF ATROCITIES PERPETRATED BY
INNOCENT BYSTANDERS
in the
UNREAL CITY

(and therefore told by the standard
victim six decades after the lost
generation convened in Paris,
delivered in the spirit of all good
dirt bitches’ BIRTH PANGS, post-war
pride and Charles’ love & XXs)

set forth in a modern tongue
with pieces extracted from within
the tow-linen coffee sack, as comical as
the tin mush pot crowning the head of

our mythical father,
JOHNNY CHAPMAN

Two voices in the wilderness
belting out that Shakespearian Rag
during the supreme madness of the carnival season,
a few taps of the toe,
an American Dream
and this,

A SLICE OF LIFE
(with a few seeds)

Presented for your
edification and amazement

by

M. Maupin
Author & Printer
1981

Encylo_textJustified text, illustrated drop caps, poetic pullquotes, black and white images and, well, the general look and feel of an encyclopedia. The back cover credits were, to say the least, the height of narcissism:

I would like to thank the following for their help: Ray Bohn, Ken Mackelbergh, Studio 1050…, Theron Hollingsworth, Ed Fisher, Jeffrey Dunne, Joseph Allen Prouse, Pat Ciernia & Art Whores, Ltd., the L&J Café, Jethro’s Saloon & Eatery, the Lakewood Logue, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Maupin, Jr., Fourth Grade Language Arts teachers who saw in me the new James Joyce, and all the myriad others who helped make these atrocities necessarily possible.

On May 16, in a hastily put-together planner-diary, I wrote:

A bad day that, because of a bad, unlucky circumstance, turned out to be okay, had a nice twist to it. First, the reason I haven’t written for so long—I get enormously tired at night and can’t lift a finger, much less write. All my money’s gone. Mrs. Weisbrod’s letting me pay her by mail. I spend most of my time writing, laying out and thinking about The Encyclopedia. Tomorrow I will complete the final draft of the last entry, typeset it and any other errors on Monday and Monday night have a little keylining celebration.

And then, June arrived.

There was a “Mark of Excellence Banquet” on the first Saturday of the month (location unknown, but the extant program reports a 6 p.m. cocktail hour with dinner at 7 and program at 8 p.m.). Executive Editor: Mike Maupin, listed near the top with Editor-in-Chief: Rod Gunsell—which is ironic, since I still have my staff resignation letter from earlier that quarter.

So … it’s likely I didn’t receive any award for excellence.

Graduation followed on Sunday, with another irony. I was a couple credits shy of the Associate of Arts degree I’d been working two years to attain. Still, I’m listed in the Class of 1981 roster. Go figure.

In a way it mattered little to me (the Family Project probably thought otherwise). I’d finally completed The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities (Revised Abbreviated Edition). Coming in at a slim 10 pages (not including front and back cover), with reverse type and fish icon on the cover (swimming off-page on the back), I was proud of the damn thing.LiveMoon_CITD

And one of the last entries, with a cropped-in image of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, “Live From The Moon” on the Family Project’s late-’70s Sony TV, provided the intro to “Gizmo,” here in its entirety:

Gizmo: The weatherman shoots his finger at a low-pressure system on the map.

Late that afternoon the family got back from the baby’s funeral. Marjorie and Tom were a year and a half into their marriage and the baby, Christina, who saw so little of life, had been the couple’s firstborn.

Convened in the young family’s kitchen were the immediate relatives: Marjorie’s mother and father, her sister Audrey and husband Terry, their children Dave, Marcella and Virginia; Tom’s mother, Katherine, sat at the kitchen table and wept. Her youngest son, Marshall, in his late 20s, stood over her, his cold hands resting on her shoulders. Marjorie made coffee for everyone and the children ran into the living room to watch television. The adults mulled over their coffee and shot stiff glances at each other, looking for signs of consolation or hope.

In the living room the television blared away, amid occasional giggles from the children. Marjorie felt horribly uneasy and hollered for the children to turn the set down. Grandmother Katherine heaved faint, squeaky sighs. Still the television howled and the children did not respond. When it seemed that Marjorie would explode into the living room, Marshall jumped ahead of her and took charge of the matter. Instantly upon seeing him stomp into the room, the children leapt to attention and David rushed to the set and lowered the volume.

Little Virginia sat by herself and, with glowing eyes, loudly sang along with an advertising jingle for McDonald’s. Marshall looked at her briefly and, returning to the kitchen, thought, “I just want to say how very sad it is…”

Christina … just a baby. And John Lennon had left the planet. He was only 40.

It was up to the rest of us to dream big.

As they would’ve wanted us to do.

Live From the Moon! (Part 1)

•October 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

[First of a two-part post.]

Studio1050_CITD 1Had it not been for a class assignment—the final project, in fact, of Lakewood Community College’s Communications Technology program—it wouldn’t have occurred to me at all.

You see, most of my classmates were designing and printing letterheads, envelopes, and business cards—the sort of things Ray Bohn, our program instructor, had suggested they create for a final project.

I’d gotten it into my head to write, edit, design and print … an encyclopedia.

Not any old encyclopedia, mind you—The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities.

***

On Dec. 26, 1980, in an 8¼ x 6-7/8 narrow-ruled notebook labeled “The Encyclopedia of Necessary Atrocities,” I’d written: “She’s the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry, still you don’t regret a single day…”

Out at the farm in Minnetrista, I celebrated the holidays with the Family Project. Apparently I’d just seen my high school girlfriend Kim and wrote: “Tonight, these words rang with a pain, simple and clear and beautifully. ‘She loves(ed) you, yeah, yeah, yeah…’ John, Paul, George and Ringo. I left something, no…I stomped callously on something I left behind a long time ago. Please, take me to the Green House…

Three weeks before that entry I was living in White Bear Lake and renting the back bedroom of a house owned by a widow named Mrs. Weisbrod.

I went to bed before midnight on Monday, Dec. 8. I always listened to the radio then—usually classical music to lull me to sleep. While flipping over to KSJN’s “Music Through the Night,” I heard a news flash: “John Lennon has been shot in New York City…”

An update confirmed that Lennon was dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

Then they played “A Day in the Life.”

I rolled over in bed, sobbing.

***

I’d just turned 21.

The day after the news about Lennon, I took the final exam for my Lithography class at 10:15 a.m. Two days later fall quarter ended, and I was home for the holidays.

Winter 1980 turned into early spring ’81. The Encyclopedia notebook also served as an ersatz journal. On Thursday, March 26: “With nothing to say, and no one to say it to… if I’m not home, I’m at school, if I’m not at school, I may be at home. I am a yo-yo doing nothing in particular…”

The final project deadline was looming at the end of spring quarter. But somehow I’d decided that I wanted to teach English in Norway over the summer, so I applied for scholarships through the Sons of Norway. On Tuesday, April 7, I wrote: “Land a job, complete text for the Encyclopedia, do as much as possible concerning Norway, and conservatively buy groceries to last a week and a half.”

Text for this “Encyclopedia”? Well, what was it going to be? Topics flooded out:

Abbreviation
Ad Se Ipsum
Amateur Night
Armies
Definition of Atrocity
Gallows Humor
Ginger Bread Man
Gizmo
History of Art
History of Nails
Mister RightEncylcoToo2
Rigamarole
Tip of the Iceberg
Visitation Rights…

Ideally The Encyclopedia would include at least one letter of the alphabet. But that devolved into whatever topic interested me, mostly from books, magazines, newspapers, TV and movies, and listening to music. Drafts were penned in the notebook, images unearthed, and illustrated drop caps completed the design.

By May 1981, I’d finished writing. After typesetting on the college’s massive Compugraphic typesetter, strips of formatted type rolled out, were waxed and keylined to my layout boards.

Ray Bohn probably walked by, scratching his head.

In my notebook for Monday, May 18: “Corrections to be made for typeset copy…final typesetting!” I was imagining a second edition, even before a first edition had even landed on one of the Lakewood College’s AB Dick presses.

***

My Lakewood artist cohorts, Pat Ciernia, Mark Luebker, and Greg Johnson, were forging ahead with “Studio 1050…”—Luebker and Johnson’s apartment atop a record store in Stillwater, Minn.—by writing and illustrating comics. And throwing amazing parties.

The Logue, our college newspaper, the student senate, and members of “Studio 1050…” often went to Jethro’s Pub and Char-House after school to blow off steam. Spring quarter was ending. We were taking final exams and wrapping up class projects.

JethrosOur poisons of choice were pitchers of cheap beer, bottles of Michelob, or—fast favorites—margaritas and Tequila Sunrises. While I didn’t own a car, I usually caught a ride with someone heading out toward Mahtomedi. Belching up Razorback burgers with bacon and cheese, and boozed to the gills, we probably packed into somebody’s Toyota.

However, that May Lakewood provided me with a part-time internship keylining ads for the West St. Paul Voice newspaper. I commuted to the gig in the old family car, the Dartillac, since Mom had just bought a used Audi. My calendar notebook shows a 2:00 p.m. start time, alternating weeks on Wednesday and Thursday, then Monday and Tuesday through May 1981.

Meanwhile I was finishing darkroom work on The Encyclopedia (halftones, keylined layout negatives that I needed to litho-strip for burning to plate) and scheduling press time for the week of May 25th.

So what exactly was going in this encyclopedia?

Well, one of the entries was titled “Gizmo.” I described it in the notebook: “A young suburban family’s tragedy. A television set, blaring away. ‘I just want to say how very sad it is…’”

Tragedy. Atrocities were mounting.

And John Lennon was dead.

Unbelievable.

Hang in There, Rick!

•September 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

completelyinthedark:

When things can’t get any lower, I always turn to one Richard Blaine, American. And Power Animal. All-new CITD post next Friday, Oct. 3!

Originally posted on Completely in the Dark:

He was there just when I needed him most.

Tuesday, Jan. 17, 1978: Skeeze was talking me off my latest emotional ledge in our high school’s empty band room.

I’d been at home sick the previous day, and reported coming back to school “really depressed, angry and downhearted” because Kim had gotten back together with her boyfriend, and Stephanie and I seemed to be on the outs.

And the “he” wasn’t even Skeeze—although Skeeze was doing his best.

Everything that afternoon “seemed to topple…I almost broke into tears…nervous, shaky, scared.” After Skeeze left—Boom!A hand clamped down on my shoulder. He seemed to settle into his double-breasted white dinner jacket: One Richard Blaine, American, age 37.

Cannot return to his homeroom. The reason’s a little vague, but I’m glad he’s there just the same.

He shrugs. “Look, kid. Hear you been having trouble with the ladies. Take my advice:…

View original 507 more words

A Brief Foray Into Love & Death

•September 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We all forget.My beautiful picture

That can be good. It can also be bad.

The death of Robin Williams on Aug. 11 sent shockwaves around the world. It affected me like the death of a family member—specifically, Mom and Dad six years ago.

But it also got me thinking, as I had been prior to that terrible news, about why life can be so difficult for some people, so much so that (brain chemistry aside) they take their own lives.

That question is easily evaded because, well, we all forget. I know I have.

That is until I discovered a seven-page, handwritten note to myself from a couple years ago. While it’s undated (apart from month and day on the last page: 11/16), I’m willing to bet it was poured out shortly after my parents died. I’d titled it “A Brief Foray into Love & Death,” and jotted down “photo of me & Mom,” likely because I’d considered it for a blog post. Given that, it was probably written in fall 2010 or ’11, since I restarted CITD in Oct. 2010.

Here it is, pretty much in its entirety, with some commentary at the end:

LOVE can only occur when you allow yourself to be seen and you clearly see (accept) another. Think of the statistical improbability of two people experiencing this simultaneously—and sustaining that vision of/toward each other. Not impossible, but very difficult.

DEATH. We all start the game with the clock ticking. We can’t see the clock-face, only hear it ticking—aware that each tick could be the last.

Mother probably suffered from depression all her life. It just didn’t surface in the severity that later would claim her life until 1982, just after her mother died. For six years she was at home, with a schedule of eat, sleep, cry, repeat. In the last year of that episode she was hospitalized.

I was so disturbed by it that I went to see a psychiatrist—more for answers than anything else—when I realized I, too, had “it.”

The symptoms now are clear, but at the time confusing. It was like coming down with the ’flu—loss of appetite, sleep, and a crazy mental loop that can’t get off the idea of self-destruction.

LOVE. The past five years have included more divorces, separations, estrangements and misunderstandings than all the years previously—or so it seems. One thing I’ve learned the past two years of all that is the courage to be seen cannot be exclusive —> I’m still coming to grips with that uncomfortable notion. For example, with my ex, I was open to her and that was joyful and liberating. But she seemed to grow fearful of my willingness to be open—it is, I’ve learned, the big gamble of Love —> will your openness, your willingness to be seen, be returned? She opted out, and remains hidden, even, I suspect, with her latest boyfriend.

The realization is daunting: if you muster the courage to be open, deal with rejection and indifference and do it all over again, and again—then I’d predict you’d have to do so within the confines of an already committed relationship.

DEATH. I wasn’t there when Mom passed, but I did see her for the last time 5½ months before. Depression had robbed her not only of hope but of the strength to beat it back. The horror of death is not death itself, but how it saps the love out of life.

Authenticity —> Levels of falsehood. Assumed authenticity = “I’ll take you at your word, who you claim to be, what you are, and what you believe.” You can’t brand anyone as “authentic.” Authenticity “begins at home.” It begins with asking hard questions about one’s self…

Inauthentic —> You can’t be known, seen. The Other becomes only an extension of your imagination, the Other “created by me to satisfy me.” This is not and can never be Love. I’ve been what you might call Functionally Inauthentic for most of my life. “What do you want? How can I please you?” Loss of me—well, never sure who I actually was.

So, this has been rattling around in my head for a couple years now, what I thought I believed, and what I was actually doing. This blog has forced me to ask questions, the answers to which I always assumed I knew. In the past I thought by “doing this,” things would lead to “that.” Now I’m beginning to see there’s an almost imperceptible progression from one false belief to another.

Living the creative life, “the work,” as van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo, has a price, which is often to the detriment of lifelong relationships. And the self—a fragile, fractured chimera largely borne by a belief in what “the world thinks [we are],” in most people never seems to ever get past that stage.

That November I last saw Mom, it pained me to see her unquestioningly absorbing all the bullshit that blared from the television, as if it were gospel. In earlier years she would’ve been more skeptical. But depression caked her mind with a false reality.

I’m left to wonder what “iron-clad beliefs” I still hold dear, many of which I’m certain are my false reality.

How did she die? She stopped taking her medication—drugs to keep her hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and depression at bay. Was that suicide? I remember I asked Dad why she’d stopped, why he didn’t insist she continue her treatment. She was in a lot of pain, that I know. Was he trying to help her out of that? I don’t know.

So, I need to stop and remember.

The “forgetting” is a defense mechanism, a way to move forward without being stalled by memories brushing up against the truth, whatever that turns out to be. Forgetting will not help me or the people I know, or hope to know, for the remainder of my life.

I must keep asking questions.

I need to keep remembering.

Junior’s Farm

•September 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Casco Point SaleIn the summer or early autumn of 1980, my late father, Paul J. Maupin, became what my second cousin Karla laughingly called, “a gentleman farmer.”

The house at 2821 Casco Point Road was sold, and a hobby farm at 7321 County Road 15—four miles west of Lake Minnetonka and nearly all of eight acres—was purchased and moved into while I was back at Lakewood Community College.

You see, I barely understood Dad’s legacy. His middle initial, “J,” stood for “Junior.” His father’s name was Paul E. (Edgar) Maupin. Grandma and Grandpa always called Dad “Junior.” I think he hated it, hence the switch to a middle initial.

Dad would turn 49 years old on Jan. 1, 1981. That’s five years younger than I am now. He’d decided to completely reinvent himself and the Family Project, created back in 1957 when he married Mom. That reinvention plan likely began before he sold the house on Casco Point (pictured above and at right).Casco Point Sale 2

Pop had a wooden sign engraved “By His Grace, the Maupin Family,” which hung outside the garage facing the road. I bristled at that, given my agnostic predisposition. But Dad’s spiritual backstory is a complicated one, one I’ll probably never nail down. However, once we’d made the move, he changed the sign to “By His Grace Farm,” and the transformation was nearly complete.

By then, the Project was beginning to fragment. I was finishing at Lakewood and my brother Brian, upon high school graduation, attended a community college in Ely, Minn.

I remember when I first arrived at “the Farm,” probably that autumn. Dad picked me up at the Mound bus stop, since I didn’t at that point own a car. I wish I would’ve recorded that day in a journal.

Two dogs immediately greeted us as we pulled up to the house: Bingo—one of Lassie’s pups, given back to us by neighbors who could no longer keep him, and a steel-blue Australian sheepdog Dad had named Muddy (photo below right). Muddy genuinely frightened me: as she approached she bared her teeth, shook her stubby tail, and sneezed excitedly.

“—She doesn’t bite … right, Pop?” I said.

Then—as if on cue—a swarm of other animals greeted us: geese, chickens, and a tomcat named Teddy.

It was like coming home to a zoo.

The farm soon became Dad’s new major project. Of course he was still working at the University of Minnesota. Later in the 1980s, he’d park his used Dodge pickup at the Mound bus stop and take the city bus in. It was like he was living dual lives.

He didn’t plant crops—hence the “gentleman farmer” epithet. The plan was to raise chickens for eggs. The dogs and geese worked as a “home security alarm system” more than anything else.

Minnetrista FarmInside the farmhouse was a small breakfast nook in the kitchen, a swinging door that lead to a sun-drenched dining room, living room with fireplace, master bedroom, bathroom and den on the main floor.

Upstairs, a small living area housed a sofa, chairs and TV, three bedrooms: the first at the top of the stairs became Mom’s sewing room, another small one next to it (window, top floor in the photo at left) became my bedroom, and baby brother scored the largest bedroom, which had windows overlooking the driveway. There was a tiny bathroom upstairs, too, and an attic crawlspace for storage.

The house was surrounded by pines, mere feet from the back door, and a massive field that led down to woods abutting Whaletail Lake. Just past the corn crib, a dirt path took you straight to the lake, where Dad had installed a dock so he could tether a boat and fish to his heart’s content.

It was idyllic—a natural extension of everything Mom and Dad valued: privacy and independence, and the ability to enjoy their own hobbies. They were determined to retire there.Dad and Muddy

It’s timely to remember this now that Brian and I may have finally sold the place that actually became their retirement home, in southwest Florida. Florida never felt like a home to me, ever. And some of the most bittersweet memories of the 1980s and early 1990s spring from my time on the farm.

So, reinvention. Dad, then; me, now.

The concept of home still evades me, even after living in so many places: Broad Ripple, Indianapolis. Then parts East: Old Baltimore Road, Maryland. In 1971, Minnesota, at the Little Renovated Summer Cottage on Casco Point.

And now, “By His Grace.” A plot of land out in the country.

Secluded, teeming with animals. Soon, an empty nester’s home.

But always, Junior’s farm.

 
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