Friday, February 27, 2009

What are Friends For?

Minnesota got quite a lot of snow yesterday. That sparkling new ground cover is beautiful: as long as you're a winter sports enthusiast, or don't have to go outside.

Snow loses some of its luster, if you you've got a job, and need to shovel out your garage door, so you can get at the snowblower, so you can cut a path to the street.

A friend of mine was up before sunrise, shoveling out his garage door. He'd tried opening it from the inside: but snow melting and re-freezing had glued the door in place. It didn't take more than about fifteen minutes to free up the door, and then it was just a matter of blowing out snow faster than the wind blew it in.

He'd cut a path from the garage to the street, through the ridge the plows left, he was good to go. The drive to work was quiet. Times being what they are, he hadn't gotten the car radio fixed. Who needs a radio, anyway, right?

The place he works is about a mile out of town, and the roads were closing in, but he made it. The parking lot was empty. And, the windows were really dark.

The shop closing had been announced on radio, and they'd tried calling him: while he was outside.

He called me this morning. He'd made it back into town, and into his driveway, before the car got stuck. It's still there: he needed a ride to work.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Upper-Midwest Enthusiasm and the Loonfoot Economy

Mark Bjornson, Mayor of Loonfoot Falls, gave his state of the city report this week. He said that Loonfoot Falls' economy could be worse. In fact, he added, in a burst of upper-Midwest enthusiasm, it's not too bad off.

He pointed out that Loonfoot Basin Power, health care, and agriculture are either what he called recession-proof, or not doing badly at all.

It's not all beer and lutefisk, of course. We've got the same higher fuel prices and lower housing values that the rest of the country has. But it could be worse. Loonfoot Falls property values were never what, say, Miami had. But they haven't fallen all that much, either.

It sounds like I'm bragging, and maybe I am. But this isn't the worst place to live, and it's nice to hear someone say so.

Not everybody sees things the way Mayor Bjornson does. There are the guys who were laid off at the turkey plant, and I've heard that the hospital is planning to cut hours or staff. I've also heard that they're looking at adding a new wing: something doesn't add up there.

On the up side, Loonfoot Falls needs a new sewage plant, so there will be jobs open when the ground thaws this spring. But, somebody's going to have to pay the contractor, which means more city taxes or levies. And nobody likes to pay taxes.

I think I'll just say that the economy in Loonfoot Falls could be worse, and leave it at that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th: The Day Before Valentine's Day

I forgot about Valentine's Day shopping until last night, around 10:30.

That time of day, there's not much open here, except the Mighty Minn Mart and Dina's Diesel Diner. Neither had what I was looking for. I know: I checked.

So, this morning I headed for Broadway Drug and Photo (thanks, Mr. Johnson!). And, took a shortcut up the alley.

About a yard shy of the back entrance, I stepped in a puddle. With ice on the bottom. My feet shot northwards, and I splashed into a fraction of an inch of water. No damage, but my left side was soaked, from the ankle up to the shoulder.

I wasn't the only guy inside, looking at red and pink cards, but I was the wettest. Finding something appropriate, I headed for the checkout. Almost made it, too.

I tripped, fetching up against the side of the pharmacy counter, right below that stuffed penguin, “Percy.” It's been the store's mascot for years.

Reaching for the counter top, I grabbed Percy's foot instead. Percy slid, and so did I. Looking up, I saw Percy's pop-eyed face toppling toward me.

The store still has their mascot: I broke Percy's fall. And, I got the card and gift I wanted, so I was a happy camper.

Until after noon, when typing became an exhausting exercise. After dragging myself through most of the afternoon, I made a call to change some plans.

I'm not superstitious, but I can't help remembering that it's Friday the 13th.

Friday, February 6, 2009

For the Wedding Reception: Cake, Candelabras, and - Propane?

Let's say you're planning a wedding. You've gotten directions to a place that you've heard does a good job with receptions. The directions take you past Fisk Implement and down a side street, to three sets of signs.

The ones on the left and right read "Engelbrecht Plumbing Rental" and "Egelbrecht Welding Supplies."

In the middle, top to bottom, there's a big arrow pointing right, with the word "enter;" then "Engelbrecht Wedding and Event Supplies & Party Store." Below that, there's another sign, whose huge letters proclaim "WE SELL PROPANE."

You're not lost: this is the right place.

Follow the arrow to a concrete block building, go through a metal door, and you'll be talking with Gerda Engelbrecht, who's been arranging wedding receptions, company cookouts, and graduation parties around Loonfoot Falls for over twenty years. She's got chairs and bubble machines, plant stands and punch bowls, including a five-gallon one that lights up. She calls it a "champagne fountain."

I hadn't made the connection between propane and parties until I saw her portable kitchen: a 14 by eight foot trailer with grills, a deep fryer, and five propane tanks.

Sometimes Gerda has to rent equipment herself: like the time a couple wanted a fog machine for the reception: and a black light miniature golf course for their guests.

The most unusual reception she'd set up, she told me, was one where the bridal bouquet was made of cattails, and the head table was made to look like a duck blind.
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