A Lunch in the Life Of

Noon Central and I pull up Yelp on my phone to determine the food options near me in Hopkins, MN. Hopkins was a town of its own at one time I’m sure, now it’s just a zip code so close to Minneapolis that if someone from out of state asks where you live, you probably just say “Minneapolis.”

The Main Street Bar & Grill is only 5 minutes away, on Main Street (amazingly), and reportedly serves the “best burgers anywhere.” It sounds worth a try.

On the way there I witness a collision between two cars, both turning left. One apparently veers into the other’s lane and they glance off one another with a plasticy crunch that startles me from looking at my driving directions while waiting for the light to change. One of the drivers, a big-haired woman, looks directly at me and mouths, “What the fuck?!”

I make it to Main Street without further incident.

Inside, the lounge is straight ahead, the restaurant is to my left. Another big-haired woman sits at the bar rolling knives, forks, and spoons into napkins that she has stacked in front of her. I ask her if I should seat myself and she says, “You go right ahead, honey.”

I move into the restaurant and sit down, positioning myself so that I can’t see any of the flatscreen televisions ringing the room. I order the Main Street burger, minus the thousand island dressing. I open my book, Gaining Daylight by Sara Loewen, and start to read.

At the table to my left a man is regaling his two companions with the stories of how he has blown out both of his knees — one of them twice — playing hockey. Meanwhile Loewen is describing in an essay how she realized she still had mustard-colored baby shit caked on her wedding ring.

A couple comes in and takes the table directly in front and to the right of me. A younger man pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. She stands up from the wheelchair and sidles around the table, bumping one of the vacant chairs at my table hard enough with her ass so as to make the water in my glass slosh over the lip. I can hear the woman breathing heavily as she drops onto her chair. From the corner of my eye I sense her face turned in my direction, but when I glance up I see she is merely staring at the TV screen above me.

The young man gets up and walks away. The woman pulls her foot up and across her leg, removes her shoe, then her sock, and proceeds to scratch and rub her foot. I try not to look, but it’s hard not to considering it is maybe four feet, if that, from me.

“That must be a good book,” the woman says. “Do you like to read?”

I look up. This time she is looking directly at me. “Yes,” I say. “I do.”

“You’re like me then,” she says.

“What do you like to read?” I ask.

“Mysteries mostly.”

“Yeah? Who is your favorite mystery writer?”

“Oh, I don’t care much for the writers,” she says. “I just like the mysteries.”

The young man returns, excited to report there are two pool tables on the other side of the restaurant. The woman puts her sock back on, then her shoe. Their food arrives. She takes a little kit out and measures her blood sugar with some electronic device.

A First For Everything

Last week I was working from a site in Southern Indiana. The customer opted to order out to a local sandwich joint for lunch. When the food arrived, we stopped working and broke out our little styrofoam boxes. I ordered a club sandwich. It came with a pickle spear and a small bag of Lay’s Classic.

One of the guys I was working with was particularly impressed that I was from Montana. He said he’d never met anyone from there before. As we were eating, he nods at my sandwich and says, “You probably don’t get a lot of these in Montana, do you?”

I look at my sandwich, then at him. I make a gesture with it and say, “A lot of these?”

He nods. “Yeah, what do you guys eat up there?”

I frown, glancing again at my sandwich to see if there is something special I’ve missed, then look at him again, puzzled.

“I mean, is there anything food-wise you’re particularly known for?”

I just shrug and say, “Well, pretty much anything we can run off a cliff first we’ll eat.”

That generated a decent laugh (and it’s a line I’ve used before in jest) but I was still surprised. Of all the weird ideas people have had about Montana, beyond simply not knowing where it is, this was the first food-related episode I’ve encountered. They also asked how far I had to travel to get to an airport, something I’m asked quite often. This time I answered that it depended on the season, since in winter I must get there by dogsled, canoe in the spring runoff, horseback in the summer, etc.


Battered By Waves

The Queen of the Sea
The Queen of the Sea

In the ongoing documentation of my epic June 2014 Summer Vacation to Los Angeles, we’ve reached Day Three. This was beach day. We’d met up with our friend Angela and her three boys — young men — the night before for dinner. This day we reconvened, piled into Angela’s Moby Dick (it’s a white Tahoe or some-such), and headed for the beach. We parked just a couple blocks away then walked on down. Being the middle of the week, it wasn’t crowded at all.

I love the ocean. I had a blast just diving into the waves and being buffeted about. Couldn’t have asked for a better day either; warm, but not scorching hot. I put the adventure case on my iPhone (it’s waterproof), then plunged back into the surf. I took a couple pictures, then shot a short SnapChat video of Julia making playful with the waves. I waded back shoreward, maybe thigh deep, to send it to all of her co-workers at Betty’s Divine.

Thing is, the swell was coming in steadily, and at times the waves were plenty big. I was manipulating the message on my phone when I heard one of Angela’s boys say, “Uh oh….” I looked up just as a wave broke, literally, right on my head.

Now I’m a big guy. Six feet tall, carrying way too much weight at this point, and sturdy. I don’t often get the sensation of just being totally manhandled. But brother, this wave dropped me like a poleax and proceeded to, I believe the term is, “washing machine” me. I mean, I’m only in about knee deep water, but a series of three or four waves surged in and broke right on me, rolled me back and forth across the bottom, all but tore my damn shorts off, and would not let me up (holding my phone out with one hand didn’t help). I was choking on sea water because I was laughing so hard. As for Julia, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard her laugh so hard. It was pretty damn funny.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. We parted ways with Angela and family, then headed to our hotel for the night (after a stop, of course, at In & Out Burger). It was a grand day.


Vacation life is hard life
Vacation life is hard life


The Garment District

LA-1Vacation day two. The morning after Joshua Tree we were up early and on the road back to LA. See, the Taschen Book Store was having a big 50% – 75% off sale on damaged and display books, and it was mission critical we get there early to see what was what. This was a big deal because they put out cool books, we already have a few of their titles, and given we receive their catalog Julia already had a few in mind to look for. We headed to the Hollywood location (the other one in the area is located in Beverly Hills) which is located in this swanky little indoor/outdoor mall thing called the Farmer’s Market. We scored some books (about 30# worth, actually, all but one or two being pretty smutty), ate donuts and drank coffee, people watched, and I went down 0-2 in creepy child encounters (1 at Joshua Tree, and 1 harrowing experience in the restroom here).

From there we headed to the Garment District in downtown Los Angeles. Wow. What an experience. Julia was looking for some particular fringe for a project she is working on. The movie business may be what LA is famous for, but if you want to see where the rubber really hits the road, this is where you go. All manner of wild fabrics on display, mass produced garments for sale that come in from all over the world and go OUT all over America, etc.




Then it was off to the warehouse district, where there are warehouses and distribution for just about everything you can imagine. Produce. Pinatas. I knew the factory where American Apparel makes their stuff is in the area, so we went looking for it and found it. I make my living moving around in the manufacturing sector, but damn if I wasn’t blown away too. By then we were hungry; perfect time for some hole-in-the-wall tacos.




We went looking for the late, great Al’s Bar, which is in the Arts District. We found where it used to be, which is now a location of some magnificent street art. I’m going to safe those images for a post of their own. Julia got to chatting with a couple folks out smoking cigarettes in front of the Art Share LA building, which was just across the street. This led us to getting a tour of the facility from a guy named Terry Ellsworth. It was a beautiful space, and what they are doing is very cool.

We plunged back into traffic headed west for Long Beach and a reunion with our friends —  Angela Davis and her crew of young men — vowing to return for more district exploration before our trip was over.

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