Holy Smokes, Things Are Worse Than I Thought!

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:46 am on Wednesday, October 31, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: NFL, Sports, Minnesota

According to this caption on Sports Illustrated’s website, Cris Carter played in EIGHT STRAIGHT SUPER BOWLS with the Minnesota Vikings. Eight!

Well, I know we didn’t win any of them. And we went to four before Cris got here and we lost those too, so I guess that means the Vikings have been 12 times and lost them all. Things are much worse than I thought!

I mean, mad props to Cris for the HoF nomination - I’m sure he’ll be a first-ballot election…but couldn’t he have won just ONE of those eight Super Bowls?

(Sorry for the blurry screen cap, folks - I only have MS Paint on the lappie. Blech.)

Screenshot from si.com

Jeep Rides: 41°

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:40 am on Tuesday, October 30, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Friends, Jeep, Minnesota

I wish Shane Pasch could have ridden to work with me this morning. He’s the only person I know who would have enjoyed driving to work in a Jeep with the top down in 41° weather (that’s 5° for you Euros).

It was cold and it was glorious.


On a related note, yesterday was the first time I took advantage of the Jeep’s ability to escape a traffic jam. Stuck in gridlock on Westfields Boulevard I drove over the median, went the opposite direction, and got where I needed to go. I never could have done that in my Beemer.


Just drove to Safeway to get some cough medicine. I saw a nun in a Jeep. Not a Wrangler, but a Liberty. But still, a nun.

Then, walking into the store, a gal with spiked black and red hair, a black leather jacket, a black micro-mini, fishnet stockings and black patent leather platform heels hops out of an SUV, goes into the store and asks where the disposable cameras are. I haven’t seen anyone dressed like that since I lived in California in the early nineties. Didn’t know they still made them like that.

Perhaps this is a sign that I need to get out more.

Torii Hunter Is Outta Here

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:36 am on Tuesday, October 30, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Sports, Minnesota

Ah, what a day.

Just read that Torii Hunter has filed for free agency.

The Twins have 15 days of exclusive negotiating rights with Torii but we all know that Carl Pohlad is too cheap to cough up the bucks necessary to sign him.

By the middle of November we’ll be able to add Torii to this list of superstar athletes that escaped Minnesota:

  • Randy Moss
  • Kevin Garnett
  • David Ortiz
  • Fran Tarkenton (but we got him back)
  • Rod Carew

Annus Mirabilis

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:01 am on Monday, October 29, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: NFL

The history of the Minnesota Vikings franchise is littered with crushed hopes and the flamed-out wrecks of lost opportunities. Four Super Bowl losses (three in four years), the Push-Off in 1975, the Herschel Walker trade that built the Dallas dynasty of the early Nineties, Wide Left in 1998, 41-donut in 2000. Until a couple of years ago the Vikings were the Boston Red Sox of the NFL – always close, never close enough. Now the Red Sox have won two World Series championships and even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose 0-26 start in the NFL inspired coach John McKay to quip, when asked what he thought about his team’s execution, “I’m in favor of it,” have won a Super Bowl.

The longest run from scrimmage in NFL history came against Minnesota in 1983 (99 yards, Tony Dorsett, playing for the Dallas Cowboys), for close to twenty years the most rushing yards ever put up in game came against the Vikings (Walter Payton did it - 275 yards). The Vikings were the first 15-1 team to not make the Super Bowl. Then there is Steve Young’s famous stumbling bobbing-and-weaving scramble through the entire Minnesota defense for a game-clinching touchdown in the playoffs. They took that one and put it in a commercial.

Yes, it’s been a history of epic collapses. But for the last several seasons the Vikings had one claim to fame: the 1998 Vikings scored more points, 556, than any team in NFL history.

(We once had other claims, but all of Tarkenton’s records were eclipsed by Dan Marino and a punter - a punter! - broke Jim Marshal’s 282 consecutive games started streak a couple of years back. There’s still Paul Krause’s record for interceptions in a career, though. 81.)

But now the record for offensive prolificacy is about to go up in smoke.

The Patriots just hung 52 points on Washington. According to Sports Illustrated the Patriots are on a pace to score 662 points - shattering the Minnesota mark by, oh, 106 points (or as many as the typical Baltimore Raven offense scores in a full season).

The sadist in me wants to see the Patriots fail. To have something heartbreaking happen to deny them the record and preserve, for a while longer at least, this one positive thing Minnesota has in the NFL record books. But New England is having a season for the ages, an annus mirabilis of the gridiron, the kind of football season that just doesn’t come along very often, if ever. They legitimately could run the table and end all the annual crap about the ‘72 Dolphins and all those idiotic stories about old men popping champagne corks. So, with all that in mind, I’ve decided to embrace the moment and pull for the Patriots to win it all this year. To go 19-0, to score 662 points and for Randy Moss to finally get his ring.

At least then the record will have fallen to a juggernaut worthy of the record and not some pansy team like the 2001 Rams.

Then maybe, just maybe, the football gods will decide the Vikings and their fans have suffered long enough and allow them the championship they’ve so heartbreakingly never won.

But I’m not holding my breath.

The Squelching of a Young Renaissance Mind

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:48 am on Friday, October 26, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random

My teacher in the second grade was Mrs. Hasser. She was mean, she was old, she had a rotten little heart.

We called her “Hasser the Gasser”.

One day in class, Mrs. Hasser taught us about the peculiarities of spelling and the letter “Q”.

“The letter Q is always followed by the letter U,” she told us.

“Not in Iraq!” I said.

Mrs. Hasser sent me to the principal’s office for smarting off.

I Wonder How Good It Was in 1938?

Posted by: elraymundo at 5:07 pm on Wednesday, October 24, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel

Ten days ago Debra and I were in Tacoma, Washington at her alma mater, the University of Puget Sound, for the 75th anniversary reunion of the Adelphians chorale group. Debra sang with the Adelphians for three years and hadn’t seen most of the people she sang with for a very long time (I’m not allowed to type “twenty-plus years” into the blog).

On Sunday the 14th the Adelphians, of which there were probably 150 to 200 or so present, gathered for brunch in a turret-like room connected to the Student Union. (This was on the same Sunday that Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ phenomenal rookie running back, tore up the Bears for 224 yards rushing, three touchdowns and 361 total yards and I missed it while I was at brunch poking at croissants and chasing red grapes around a paper plate with my fork. But I’m not bitter.)

The emcee at the brunch spoke about each of the musical conductors who had served at the school over the last seventy-five years. As each was remembered, he invited different alumni to come forward and share an anecdote about the conductor they sang under, or about their time with the group. Many people spoke: some told witty stories, some told eloquent stories and some told real snoozers.

Now, 75 years is a long time, so when the emcee asked if anyone present had sung under the man who founded the Adelphians in 1932 only two people, a brother and sister, raised their hands. When asked, they both came forward and took turns behind the small podium at the front of the room.

The sister, the younger of the pair, spoke first, and told a short, charming anecdote which made everyone laugh. Golf claps all around.

But the brother…he brought the house down.

I don’t remember the name of the man who founded the Adelphians and I’m too lazy to go upstairs and ask La Raymunda. (I’m actually afraid she’ll figure out why I want to know and tell me, “No, you can’t write that story!”) I do remember that the founder had a double-barreled first name so I’ll just call him “John Paul” and be done with it.

Anyway, the brother stepped up to the podium, took the microphone in hand and introduced himself.

“I sang with Adelphians in nineteen thirty-eight, nineteen thirty-nine, nineteen forty and nineteen forty-two,” he said emphatically, enunciating each year of his service in a staccato way that hammered each letter “t” mercilessly as if it were a baby seal and he were their baseball-bat-wielding Grim Reaper.

“John Paul was our musical conductor,” he continued. Then he paused and looked around the room and said, “AND JOHN PAUL LOVED PORNO!”

The audience erupted in laughter and squeals and covered mouths and giggles and red faces and oh-my-goodnesses and, finally, a chorus of applause. The old Adelphian grinned ear-to-ear.

“I just want to say,” he went on, “that I learned A LOT from John Paul!” Then he set the microphone down, walked back to his chair and sat down while the place roared with laughter.

Travel Tales: Razzmatazz and The Pink Elephant Carwash

Posted by: elraymundo at 1:32 pm on Tuesday, October 23, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, Friends

I can sit and watch the human freakshow all day long. I don’t mean the masochists who pierce themselves with giant hooks and hang themselves from trees and bleed all over the place or the weirdos in the Jim Rose Circus who drink beer through their nose…I just mean your standard oddballs, nutjobs, freaks and whackos – you know, the deviants who color life in plaids and polka dots instead of solids. Debra, on the other hand, has no interest in them whatsoever. I knew this and so, when I started telling my Razzmatazz story, I knew that I was probably taking Debra down an alley she would rather not stroll down.

We were in Seattle visiting with Joey Walker, whom I met in Spain during the running of the bulls in 1991. We met when, at some point or another during that week of silliness in Pamplona, I ran into a college classmate, Akemi Smith, sitting at an outdoor cafe with a group of people, one of whom was Joey. We all ended up hanging around together and Joey and I became friends and have remained so until this day - even after I dropped our just-purchased bottle of tequila on the train platform in Seville and we had to carefully sip what was left from around the shards of broken glass remaining in the bag.

That same winter I moved to Seattle on a whim (you know, pretty much the way I did everything back then) and Joey set me up with a room in the house her boyfriend Eric lived in with his brothers and a friend of theirs named Chris. (It was actually a 6×12 closet and not a full-fledged room - but it had a window that looked out over a shed and a bunch of weeds, so it wasn’t all that bad. And it was only $100 a month!) When I told Joey that I wanted to drive by the old place she winced and said, “Why? That place was disgusting!”

Ok, so the guys smoked so much dope and tobacco that if you moved a picture on the wall the paint underneath was a completely different shade than the smoke-stained wall. And yeah, Chris believed in Aleister Crowley and the supernatural powers of magic wands and that the collective gravitational tug of the stars on any given night could influence the development of a baby in its mother’s womb, his supporting argument for astrology. And, ok, there were a lot of weeds (legal and otherwise) all over the place and the building probably should have been condemned, but hey, it was home for a while and I wanted to see it.

So we drove across the Aurora Bridge and into the Green Lake area and made a left up 73rd Street, passing suburban house after suburban house. When we finally got to where the old place should have been there was nothing but an empty grass lot.

“Oh, good, it’s gone!” shouted Joey gleefully.
“Was it really that bad?” asked Debra.
“It was worse than bad. Oh, it totally needed to be torn down. It was so gross.”

We drove up and down the street a couple of blocks in each direction to make sure we were in the right spot, which we were, and then we drove on up into Ballard to find the Pizza Hut I used to work at.

“Michael was so poor when he lived here,” Joey said to Debra, “that he lived on Grape Nuts and skim milk.”
“And the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut,” I added. “That was free since I worked there.”

Later I asked Joey if the Pink Elephant car wash was still at the downtown end of the Aurora Bridge. The building housing the car wash sat beneath a giant revolving sign shaped and painted like a happy pink elephant showering itself with water. She said it still existed and that we would drive past it on the way back. “And Razzmatazz…is it still there, too?”

“Razzmatazz…wow…no, they tore that down,” she said.
“What’s Razzmatazz?” asked Debra.
“It was a strip club,” said Joey.
“It sat at the end of the bridge across the street from the Pink Elephant,” I said. I paused, watching Debra. I had a funny story about Razzmatazz, but I wasn’t sure Debra would want to go there. I was sure Joey hadn’t heard it, though, and I knew she would get a kick out of it…so I took a deep breath and jumped.

“Razzmatazz had this billboard out front,” I began. “You could see it plain as day as you crossed the Aurora Bridge. It was just impossible to miss. Well, they put some pretty wild messages up on that billboard and one day I was driving across the bridge and I looked up and in great big letters it said:


Joey laughed and coughed and almost choked on her drink. Debra recoiled with a look of shock and horror on her face.

“It said WHAT?”
“They can’t put something like THAT on a sign, can they?”
“That’s what I thought, too,” I continued. “And someone must have complained because when I drove by it a couple of days later it only said:


“That…is…so…gross,” said Debra. “How could you even have a contest for something like that?”
“People are into all sorts of weird things, I guess.”
“That’s too funny.”

I paused, waiting to continue.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I could tell you how the contest went.”
Debra’s eyes widened.
“I did!”
Joey laughed and Debra face dissolved into a look of utter revulsion.

“Stop,” said Joey. “You didn’t really go!”
“C’mon, how could I pass something like that up?” I explained. “I was totally curious.” There was a long pause while Joey giggled and Debra collected herself and then Joey piped up.
“So…” she said, “how did they - you know - do it?”

And here is where, hand in loving hand, I took Debra just one…step…too…far down Freakshow Alley.

“Well, you know the poles they swing around when they dance? Well, this one gal shimmied to the top of the pole, wrapped her legs around it and held on with her ankles while she hung upside down to reach with a razor into a bucket of water that was sitting on the stage…”

“STOP!” said Debra, cringing as she raised her hand and shut her eyes.

Joey laughed. “Only you, Michael. Only you.”

Travel Tales: In Defense of Mimes

Posted by: elraymundo at 1:21 pm on Monday, October 22, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel

In September 1993 I wandered into The Globe bookstore in Prague looking for a place to sit and eat my sandwich. The place was packed and the only seat free was at a table where an old man was chatting with a young woman in her twenties. I approached the table and asked if the empty seat were available.

“Yes, it is,” said the woman in heavily accented English.

I sat down and dug into my sandwich. The old man, a grungy baseball cap perched atop his shaggy white hair, ran his fingers through his white goatee and said to the woman, “Why don’t you ask him if you think it’s so easy?”

I froze with my sandwich halfway to my mouth. “Ask me what?” I said.

“Would you like to hitchhike to France with me?” said the young woman. She asked me, a total stranger, to cross Europe with her as simply and as directly as if she were asking me to pass the salt.

“Well,” I said, “that depends. Who are you and where are you going and when are you going and for how long?”

“Yes, of course,” said Jitka, and she breathlessly explained about how her best friend in the world, a Czech girl who lived in England, was going to be in France for a week and how she was dying to see her and she couldn’t afford a train or a bus and all that left was hitchhiking and she didn’t want to hitchhike to France alone especially across Germany but France would probably be ok but one had to go through Germany first to get to France and so on and so on.

Five minutes later I had agreed to the trip and four days later I was on the side of a Czech highway with Jitka hitchhiking to France. We’ve been friends ever since.

After three days of travel we arrived in La Bastide d’Armangac, a tiny village of about 300 people in the southwestern chunk of France, just east of Mont de Marsan. La Bastide d’Armangac is a very rural village with a tiny central square flanked by a few decrepit, wooden buildings. There is a memorial, as there is in every French town, to the town’s World War I dead, and the surrounding landscape is dotted with ancient family vineyards. The vineyard grapes become armangac, a lesser-known cousin of the twice-distilled brandy, cognac. We found the house we were staying in and I met Milada, Jitka’s best friend, and the three of us spent the days doing mostly nothing but wandering around the village, poking around in the countryside and sitting in the backyard talking.

One afternoon Jitka and Milada decided we needed mushrooms for dinner and so we went mushroom-hunting in the forest. We rode bicycles - old fashioned single-speed bikes with upright handlebars - out among the fields looking for a good hunting place. We were looking for great big huge mushrooms that grew at the bases of trees. All afternoon we pedaled through scenery that looked like it came straight out of a Van Gogh painting: dusty dirt Van Gogh paintingroads flanked by rich, hunter green forests and fields of pale yellow grain where the occasional lone farmhouse stuck up, bright red or yellow or vibrant blue. When we did find a good spot, we laid our bicycles on the ground beside the road and wandered around in the forest.

We found our mushrooms and then, back at the house, realized we had no eggs - a required part of the dinner recipe. Since I wasn’t cooking (what a surprise), I and my nearly non-existent French were sent to the grocery to buy some. The grocery was a rinky-dink little shop, sparsely stocked with goods shelved along the walls and a single free-standing set of shelves standing in the middle of the floor. Two old women chatted in a corner behind a low, wooden counter and a piece of fabric hung across an open doorway that led upstairs to a second floor. There was no “grocery store” lighting like I was used to, it was simply an old wooden room in an old wooden building with an old wooden floor and old wooden shelves lit by a single light bulb and staffed by two old thick-waisted farmwomen with handkerchiefs tied over their heads and grey hair tied back into buns. It couldn’t have possibly been more Old World.

Now, you’d think eggs would have been easy to find in a shop the size of a small school bus. But they weren’t. I searched every shelf, looked in every nook and peeked inside every crate in the place, looking for eggs. I found nothing. Not a single egg. I racked my brain for the French word for “egg” so I could ask for help but I couldn’t find the word. I shot a look over at the two women in the corner chattering away in French. Neither looked like they had been more than a mile from the farm and I knew English wasn’t going to be an option. With a rising panic, I began to realize that I was going to have to pantomime an egg.

I made my way over toward the women. They stopped chatting and looked at me with flat, blank expressions. I imagined myself with my hands tucked into my armpits, arms bent at the elbow, flapping and clucking like a chicken. One of the women raised an eyebrow the way people everywhere do to ask, “What do you want?” I imagined squatting, putting my hand under my butt and then bringing it back up as if it were holding an egg.

I may not have known the word for egg but I did know one thing: this was going to be humiliating.

I reached the counter and said, “Avez-vous…” and paused. The women looked at me, waiting for me to finish. Then, just as I was about to flap and cluck and lay an egg, I stopped altogether. My eyes widened and I smiled as a sudden thought struck me. Flan! I thought. Flan has eggs!

I raised a finger to the ladies and then zipped around to the far side of the center shelf. I grabbed a box of flan and flipped it around until I saw the list of ingredients. I rapidly ran my finger along the box beneath the indecipherable French words until I found the word I needed: oeuf. Egg! Saved!

I took out a pen and wrote oeuf on my hand, and then wrote avez-vous in front of it for good measure. I marched to the counter in the corner of the shop, peeked at my hand and proudly announced, “Bonjour, madames, avez-vous les oeufs?” One woman stuck out her bottom lip, shrugged and lifted a tray of eggs from beneath the counter and presented them to me. I laughed, took several and paid. The women looked at me as if I were insane. Then I waved goodbye and left the shop. Eggs in hand I strutted back to the house with my dignity intact and my hard-won contribution to a fine evening’s dinner.

Making Freud Proud

Posted by: elraymundo at 1:20 pm on Friday, October 19, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random

Vendor T did a little dog and pony show yesterday at The Place of Oil-Painted Founders. Leading the show for Vendor T was a woman I knew from my past life at The Place of Evil and Darkness when she worked for Vendor B. Now, to be honest, the sales woman is a rather…hmmm…how does one say it in your language…busty? gal. And she doesn’t hide her figure with the way she dresses. Nothing inappropriate, mind you, but a professional “if ya got it show it” sort of style.

So the dog and pony show commenced, it proceeded through slideshows and whiteboard sessions, naps were staved off, business cards were exchanged with promises of lifelong alliance and camaraderie and then, in the middle of my “sailing around the world” dream, it ended. Everyone stood, shook hands with great sincerity and strength of grip, and then went their separate ways.

This morning, I sat next to Network Manager Guy as we waited for a meeting to begin. “Did you catch X’s Freudian slip yesterday?” he asked me, grinning.

“Um…maybe? Remind me.”

“When X referred to ‘implementing IT strategies according to industry standard breast-practices’. He was looking right attem when he said it.”

“Yes! I did hear that! I thought it was just me. You heard it, too?”

Network Manager Guy nodded and we both dissolved in laughter.


Posted by: elraymundo at 9:31 am on Wednesday, October 17, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Politics

This is my favorite law in all of Virginiadom:

§ 46.2-842.1. Drivers to give way to certain overtaking vehicles on divided highways.

It shall be unlawful to fail to give way to overtaking traffic when driving a motor vehicle to the left and abreast of another motor vehicle on a divided highway. On audible or light signal, the driver of the overtaken vehicle shall move to the right to allow the overtaking vehicle to pass as soon as the overtaken vehicle can safely do so. A violation of this section shall not be construed as negligence per se in any civil action.

(1989, c. 708, § 46.1-211.1.)

I have two words for the drivers of the nasty old beat-up white Toyota Camry, the shiny new black Ford Explorer and the gleaming red Mitsubishi Eclipse with the black bra on the hood who waddled along in the far left lane on Route 28 this morning:


You are impinging upon my God-given, inalienable right, as guaranteed by Virginia law 46.1-211.1., to drive unobstructed like a bat out of hell with the top down, enjoying the seventy degree Indian summer that the gods of October have given us this year.

I only wish the State of Virginia prosecuted this law with the same vigor it does when passing legislation to deny gays and lesbians their civil rights. Ah, but that’s life in our little redneck paradise for you.

Next Page »