Monthly Archives: October 2009

Imagine it takes you 5 years to finally download photos off a phone. Only to discover they mostly suck—poorly lit, not what you intended to capture and WAY too freakin’ small. To add insult to injury, you bought a $15 data-transfer cable that ended up being worthless. You couldn’t have made this process harder or more disappointing. But goddammit—after all that, you’re going to share those photos.

Command-= some of these cuz I clearly didn’t get that I could set the resolution.

Listening to Taylor Branch talk about his eight years of secret conversations with Bill Clinton, I’m betting the Johanna era has similar literary potential.

Me: Are you going to finish your dinner?

Jo (building a train with dining room chairs): No.

Don’t you want dessert?

Yes, I do.

Finish up we can have dessert and carve pumpkins.

I’m scared of Halloween.

Why? What’s scary?

Scary cats. Scary ghosts. Scary pumpkins. Scary BATS.

What are you going to be?

Karl (the cat) is going in his kitty costume.

What about you?


Which one?

A cat. Is Tomorrow is Halloween?

It’s still a few days off.

My birthday is yesterday. My birthday is AFTER yours.

No, your birthday is before mine.

Yeah. Are you a boy or a girl?

I’m a boy.

Yeah, a BIG boy. And I’m a big girl. Frankie is a big boy (Lists off everyone we know and their gender).


Photo 33

There’s a lot of talk about vaccines and hand-washing lately. We’re getting reports from across town of families in quarantine. There’s a cousin in the hospital with pneumonia. My spleen just gave me one of those “hello” stabs. And suddenly Jo’s got symptoms. Has it begun? There’s sun coming through the window and all we have to do today is feed ourselves.


I probably talk too much about the cassettes I’ve been amassing in my car over the last year or two. No one really gets it, but in terms of collecting, they’re now on a par with LPs for me: rare and random little treasures you can’t download on command, only stumble upon; a mild form of protest against the breaking-new-band race that left me behind years ago. And unlike LPs, the medium’s late-80s/early-90s heyday is also my own.

I’m not entirely alone in my obsession. Sarah has kept a respectable set of Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Prine and Neil Young titles so thoroughly enjoyed that the names are buffed off. My friend Kev, who somehow bills time at his job while combing thrift stores for tapes and 45s, partly inspired my car-cassette fetish with his trunkful of stacking plastic racks loaded with amazing tunage. I get his overflow, rejects and the occasional loaner—recently an Alice Cooper Best Of, New Order’s 2nd full-length and a Minutemen cassette-only comp that packs more pleasure, minute for minute, than anything else in my zipcases.

Rewound sounds:

John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth: Where does this much weariness and seething come from, just a tape-flip away from “Imagine”?

The Clash – Career Opportunities: Too much work has me nostalgic for underemployment—and the righteous indignation that went with it.

Rolling Stones – Out Of Time: If you can hear past the viciousness, this is a real head-bobber.

Tha Alkaholiks – Likwit: You gotta hand it to a group that can squeeze three albums of strong jams out of a passion for malt liquor.

Rollins Band – What Have I Got: Circa 1990, this perfectly distilled my disaffected white boy angst. Now it sounds so ridiculous it’s hard to believe Rollins even took it seriously. But I still dig the slow grind and wanky guitar.

Minutemen – Shit You Hear At Parties: A kick in the idiot box.

UPDATE—11/1: Pop Matters explains why cassette nostalgia doesn’t exist. I beg to differ.

UPDATE—11/23: Designer/artist and super-old family friend I only finally got to meet this year Kate Bingaman-Burt drew my mixtape:

I’ve kept faith through weeks of crumminess that Minneapolis would get one more golden day before we’re buried alive. The sun’s finally out, but they’re saying flakes by Saturday. Shows you what my prayers are worth. With summer’s demise impossible to deny, let’s rewind to balmier times.

Settle in, cuz I couldn’t decide on much to leave out.


While this isn’t the “original” corn maze, we visited one of the grander specimens located near Elgin, Iowa, which legend has it is where this surprisingly fun roadside attraction began.

We’ve been here twice, and it gets more baroque every year, with scavengers hunts and trivia among the rows and additional maze-like puzzles right outside.


We were in the area for the 2nd Annual Christmas in July, a plan hatched by my grandfather so that neither he nor anyone in the family needs to drive in snow EVER. He chose July because “what the hell’s it matter when you do it?” The weather’s fine, and we can swim, shoot arrows and toss the lawn darts. I’ll admit, he’s onto something.


My cousin’s son Hunter can only drive the ATV with an adult, which means if you’re an adult, he’s badgering you to get on. The passenger here, my mom (some people just look so natural on an ATV, you know?), happens to be flying a freaking kite WHILE SHE RIDES. I’ll believe she’s the first to multi-task in this manner until the Internet sets me straight.


Graycen (4) and Hunter (10) of Polk City, IA. Franklin (4) of St. Paul and Johanna (3) of Minneapolis.


Hell yeah, Christmas in July.


We won the corn maze.


So cute you could puke, right? In recent years, the Weaselhawks softball club has been doing a lot more procreating than practicing. So rather than paying attention to the game in progress, this kind of thing happens.


Three volcanoes sighted on our way out west.


Same volcanoes, visible from a hill in Portland.


In Oregon for the Voget Family Reunion were an endless parade of cousins: Argentine cousins, German cousins, long-lost cousins, fifth, sixth and seventh cousins and regular old first cousins like shirtless Jack Whitney from down the street.


Sarah made T-shirts and 1″ button flair for the event, avidly collected by the youngest cousins.


Hiking among the soft-barked sequoias of Portland’s Forest Park, the country’s largest urban park.


My brother-in-law Mike of Portland and Kai Van Der Smissen of Dortmund, Deutschland, way-distantly related dudes enjoying cake in a church basement.


Henning Voget, Berlin-based family historian and rail station designer. Our labored but penetrating conversations are one of the highlights of Sarah’s reunions for me.


Sarah’s not-so-distant relatives started a butcher shop in Hubbard, Oregon, that still makes fine meats. The reunion crowd made a pilgrimage there. I got some jerky.


After Portland, we made a beeline for Salem for some QT with our favorite non-cousin Sheila Mullooly and her partner Dan.


They greeted our arrival with champagne, as we typically demand.


We may have seen 90% of western Oregon’s waterfalls on this trip without any real intention of doing so.

Under the falls



There was a poorly planned segment of the trip on the way to Seattle (which so happened to be the piece left to me) where we drove for hours on soggy highways like this one to get deep into a rain forest where—would you believe it—it was raining.


Ferrying across the Sound with my Dad’s family, clutching my 5th coffee.


Sister Emily and Jo got along great, though the Children’s Museum we visited fairly sucked.


From blondness to a love of sports, I am dubious that I share any DNA with these kids. But we are all fond of sweets.


Our kite obsession continues at Carkeek Park on the sunniest day of our trip.



All these people, a good chunk of our remaining Seattle friends, live on the same block in Ballard, mostly by coincidence.


Friends and globe-trotting landscape architects Anna and Ken, with son Kenzo.


A crack-of-dawn goodbye to Grandpa before we leave (though he’d probably been up since 3).


Marc and Evelyn joining us in a dejeuner sur l’herbe moment, but with canoes. Splotchy sunlight aside, I like it when my life passably resembles the Olden Days.


Seed Art is the greatest gift to state fairgoers since Type-2 Diabetes.


The girl is 3 going on 13. Dressed in the latest Chinese threads from Godfather Kirk.


L-O-L-A Lola.


Bathing beauties at Lone Lake.


They heard S’mores were being served.


Just before Jessica got married and went to Paris for a month. Are you back yet? Her sister (in pink) is wearing Jessica’s 20-year-old prom dress for laughs.


The champion!

Taking requests.


Did you think you’d seen the last of the waterfalls?


With our smiles at half-mast, visit season is officially over.