All posts by Lars Walker

Confession of an approval junkie

I’m a slave of mutabilitie, as Chaucer might have put it. One e-mail, and all of a sudden my attitude changes and the world looks brighter.

The e-mail to which I refer is one I got this afternoon, from a woman representing the local chapter of the Nordmanns Forbundet, a Norwegian-American friendship organization I once actually belonged to (though in Florida). They had a speaker cancellation for their April meeting, and she wondered if I could take the gig at short notice. She’d met me when I spoke to a Sons of Norway group in St. Paul last year.

Somebody needs me! I regard myself with scorn in my mind’s eye, saying, “You pathetic loser. Somebody shows you a little attention and you wag your tail like a dog.”

Yeah, I do. Having no self-esteem of my own, I depend entirely on outside reinforcement for my satisfaction.

I think my depression the last few days may have been a symptom of an unconscious feeling of closure. I’ve always considered my lecturing career a sort of dragging appendage of my novel writing, like a long tail. I’ve basically stopped advertising myself as a lecturer since I lost my publisher, so I’d figured the Owatonna gig on Monday was the final shot. The last gasp of the tail end of my life as an author.

But now it’s OK, at least until the middle of April. I’m not quite gone yet.

A second consideration is that it pays an honorarium, which will help with my ongoing financial crisis. It occurs to me that this is one of God’s methods of providing for me on a One Day At A Time basis, just like the Bible says.

I’m always hesitant to talk too loud about these manna deliveries. I don’t want to sound like one of those enthusiasts who gets a smile from a girl and decides it’s God’s will that he marry her, or has a cancer remission and loudly proclaims he’s been completely healed forever. Guh-lory!

So I sin in the opposite direction, denying God the praise He deserves.

But today I’m giving credit where credit is due.

Did I do good, God? Huh? Huh?

More reasons I don’t miss being a kid

It’s dark and rainy today, and it’s dark and rainy in my soul.

I went to bed early last night, really tired, and then couldn’t get to sleep. I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. These are things that haven’t happened much since I started the CPAP, and I don’t know what to think of it. Maybe my body’s still adjusting to the new sleep patterns. Maybe it’s an emotional reaction to having to pretend to be normal and talk with people at my lecture the other night. Maybe my suppressed psychosis is finally manifesting itself.

In any case, I’ve been low all day.

Found this site by way of Townhall.com. People list the odd things they believed when they were kids.

I’ve got some of those.

I believed a pack of nasty, winged dogs lived under my bed (but only at night). It was very important never to dangle my hand down over the edge where they could bite it. They couldn’t reach far out from their hiding place, though. Why a dog that lived under a bed would need wings, I never wondered.

I believed that there were other dangerous things after me in the night, beyond the winged dogs. But they couldn’t hurt me if I kept my sheets and blankets up right under my chin. If my neck got uncovered while I slept, though, I was in trouble.

I believed (or suspected) that all objects had personalities and feelings, like in the cartoons. To this day I feel guilty about throwing anything away. I know the objects are hurt by the rejection.

I used to wonder about that animal they always showed drawings of on weather reports. You know, that animal with the small head, thin front leg, and big hindquarters. My father eventually explained that it was a map of America.

When they did the Emergency Broadcast System tests on TV, I believed I was expected to hide under a table, like we did under our desks in school, during the bomb drills.

I believed that the Revolutionary War Battle of Concord had been fought in West Concord, Minnesota, a town near where we lived.

My mom told me that babies came from a seed that passed from a husband to a wife. So I figured the seed passed through their hands when they held hands during the wedding and the pastor pronounced them man and wife.

Brother Moloch and I had fun with our little brother Baal when he was scheduled for his first dentist visit. We told him they’d give him a shot with a big, square needle, and we made up a bunch of other harrowing stuff. This was standard family humor—we like ridiculous exaggeration. We thought he got the joke. He didn’t. They literally had to drag him into the office, screaming—and it was only a check-up.

Coming to the ends of things

I want to say thanks to the folks of Nor-Tonna Lodge of the Sons of Norway, Owatonna, Minnesota, for bearing up under the weight of my lecture last night. I did my “The Viking Sagas: Dead Men Tell Tales” PowerPoint presentation, probably my most popular. I’m not sure why that is, though I suspect it may be because I listed it first on my promotional brochure.

Anyway, they were a wonderful audience. They even laughed during my reading of “The Tale of Thorarin Nefjolfsson’s Feet” from Heimskringla, which some audiences aren’t smart enough to do. And they bought a pile of books, which is a blessing from God at just this moment in my economic history.

A lady told me a story she’d heard from another author. I wish I remembered the author’s name, because I’d like to give proper credit. If anybody knows the source, let me know.

The story goes like this:

A writer dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “We offer a special deal to writers here. You can choose whether you go to Heaven or Hell. Let’s look at Hell first.”

He leads the author downstairs, and opens the door to a large room, where a number of writers toil away at word processors. They are scowling and sweating. Whenever they pause, a devil comes along and whacks them with a whip.

“This isn’t very pleasant,” says the writer. “Let’s see what Heaven looks like.”

St. Peter leads him up to Heaven, and opens a door to a large room precisely like the first one. Here also a large number of writers sit hunched over word processors, scowling and sweating. Whenever they pause, an angel comes along and whacks them with a whip.

“I don’t get it,” says the writer. “What’s the difference between Heaven and Hell?”

“The difference,” says St. Peter, “is that here you get published.”

Not hilarious. Lousy theology.

But about as accurate a description of the writing life as I’ve ever heard.

I finished The Lord of the Rings today. At last.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it.

It’s just that it took so long. Not only because of the length of the trilogy, but because with books I’ve already read several times, I find myself lacking motivation; lacking the need to find out what comes next. That makes for slow reading.

I know C.S. Lewis would be appalled to hear that I don’t enjoy good books as much on re-reading as first reading.

I guess I’m just a philistine.

I did cry a little at the end, though. For Frodo. Because I know now what it means to know you have a wound that will never be healed, this side of Numenor.

But all in all, I’m glad I’ll now be able to tackle the pile of books Dave Alpern sent me, a month or two ago.

Can I make this title shorter? Part 2

I have more to say about last night’s subject, come to think of it. The importance of fewer words. Like white space in graphics. Like pauses in music.

I know a pastor who’s a very effective preacher, but hopeless with words. He actually has, I think, a phobia about words (like my own phobia about numbers). Faced with a word choice, he grabs the first word that enters his mind and throws it against his meaning to see if it sticks. If it doesn’t, he throws another, and another, in the hope that the aggregate of all those words will be somewhere close to what he wants to communicate. If he weren’t good with gestures and facial expressions, nobody would ever know what he meant. But because he adds a lot of physical clues, he makes it work.

A lot of people try the same sort of thing with writing. They write a sentence and then think, “That’s not exactly what I meant.” So they add another sentence, or a lot of modifiers—adjectives and adverbs. In the end they walk away from the steaming pile of verbiage, hoping the meaning they intended is in there, somewhere.

That’s not readable writing.

I made a reference to Westerns last night. Think of all the Westerns you’ve ever watched. You’ll probably recognize the following scenario.

The bad guys ride into town, yahooing. They ride their horses on the boardwalks and into the saloons. They fire their pistols again and again, indiscriminately. Mothers snatch their babies up and run away, terrified of a stray bullet or ricochet.

Enter the hero. He doesn’t say much. He goes into the saloon and orders his drink. He refuses to talk to the rowdies.

They get angry. They taunt him.

He does nothing but drink his drink.

They shoot at the floor at his feet, to make him “dance.”

He doesn’t take the bait.

Finally they do (or say) something unforgivable.

Suddenly the hero is all action. But it’s limited, deliberate action. He draws his pistol. He may not even be fast with it. But his shooting isn’t indiscriminate. He fires three times. Three men fall, each of them shot dead center.

The hero has his weapon under control. He doesn’t use it more than necessary, but when he uses it he uses it with precision.

The writer’s weapon is his vocabulary. He doesn’t show it off. He doesn’t try to impress the reader with his fancy style. He uses the minimum number of words he needs to, but they’re precisely the words he wants.

(I know there are good writers who use a more flowery style. But even they, I think, need to learn to cut words first, before they can move on to an idiom of their own.)

“But how do I know the precise, right word?” you ask (using a redundancy you’ll need to work on).

There’s no royal road. Do what you need to do to expand your vocabulary. Read thesauri in your spare time. Do word puzzles in the newspaper. Read books above your reading level with a dictionary at your elbow.

Whatever you need to do, do it. Learn more words so you can use fewer of them. These are your tools. If you want to be a master, you need to control them and their uses.

Can I make this title shorter?

The amusing Dr. Luther at Luther at the Movies was playing with an aristocratic title generator yesterday. I went over and checked it out, and frankly it didn’t amuse me much. Too easy.

But at that site I noticed a link to this site, where you can purchase an official Scottish lairdship. Or so they claim.

Don’t say I never did anything to improve your quality of life.

How am I today? Much better, thanks. I went to bed about 9:00 last night, and slept till 6:00 a.m., and I woke up much improved.

My working hypothesis on what happened to me is that my body was overwhelmed by the unprecedented amount of sound sleep it’s been getting lately. It had to shut down for a while to recalibrate.

I was listening to talk radio today in the car, and when I got where I was going I turned it off. I noticed immediately how much more pleasant the silence was than the preceding discussion had been.

That put me in mind of a saying attributed to Calvin Coolidge (which means somebody else probably actually said it): “I try never to say anything that won’t improve on silence.”

Those words have been guiding lights to me all my life.

You might not realize it, knowing me only from these posts, but I’m known as a man of few words. Partly because I grew up in a situation where saying the wrong thing was physically dangerous, I learned to keep my own counsel and save my fire for the moment when I can drop one pithy, memorable, and possibly funny statement into the mix.

Because of this policy I have a reputation for being smarter than I am.

I’m perfectly OK with that, by the way.

But I think it might be a help to me in writing too. Less isn’t always more, in spite of the cliché, but in modern writing it definitely helps.

An example comes from one of my favorite books, Heimskringla, (or The Sagas of the Kings of Norway) by the Icelander Snorri Sturlusson—the most exciting and readable history book written in the Middle Ages.

There’s a scene in the saga of King Harald Hardrada (who deserves to be much better known than he is). Harald has come into open conflict with one of his jarls (earls), a man named Haakon. who spared an enemy of Harald’s against his orders. Harald goes out to attack Haakon with an army. He defeats him, but it’s uncertain whether the jarl survived or not. As the king’s army is going home, a man suddenly leaps from the forest into the path, grabs the jarl’s captured standard, kills the man carrying it, and disappears into the trees again.

In the earlier versions of the saga that Snorri used for sources, Harald replies with a fairly long speech about how dangerous an enemy Haakon is, and how everyone should be on guard.

In Snorri’s version, Harald just says, “The jarl is alive. Bring me my armor.”

Think of the impression Clint Eastwood made by doing the Man With No Name westerns almost entirely without lines.

Writers do well to remember how powerful a few, well-chosen words can be.

Wow! It’s snowing hard out there.

Winter is alive. Bring me my sweater.

Come by to be cheered up? Too bad.

I’m beat. I’m washed out. Judging by the energy I’ve lost, I have to assume somebody implemented the Kyoto Accords on my behalf.

Up to now, it’s been a good week. The CPAP machine seems to be doing its job. I’ve been waking up refreshed, sharper of mind and with a better attitude. The effect generally faded in the afternoons, but the time I hit the wall seemed to be later each day.

Yesterday I felt like I didn’t hit the wall at all.

Alas, the wall was just changing tactics. I woke up early this morning, and was unable to get back to sleep, for the first time since I started using the breathing prosthetic.

And all day I’ve been Grandpa Sloth, the sloth all the other sloths have to wait for. I’m weak. I’m tired. I’d close my mouth when I chew, but that takes so much effort.

And the Black Dog of Depression has his big Labrador paws on my shoulders and is drooling down my neck.

It wasn’t even a bad day. I got started on a project I’ve been dreading and putting off, so my guilt should be lower. My new library assistant seems to be catching on to the basics of the cataloging system. And I got a line on a new agent, thanks to the good offices of Ed Veith (I’ll let you know if any contracts get signed).

Fortunately the day will end, and tomorrow will likely be better. I’ll be sorry I even wrote this post.

So forget all about it, please.

Soon I’ll be in my 60s too

Today the temperature topped 60. We’re not fooled, mind you. We’re Minnesotans. We’ve been deceived too many times by Madame March to put any trust in her fickle promises. Tomorrow will be cooler (though not bad) and there’s a chance of some snow over the next few days.

But today it was possible to pretend the whole thing was over.

As I took my constitutional, I saw two people I also saw last night. Last night I took them for a mother and her little boy.

Today I got closer and realized the mother was a young guy. And the little boy was his girlfriend.

That’s pretty much all the proof I need, isn’t it? I’m officially a codger.

Movie advice (from a guy who almost never goes to them anymore): If you enjoyed 300 and want to find more of the same, and if you check out movies starring Gerard Butler on Netflix, and you see that he did one called Beowulf, and you think, “Hey, another great action movie with swords, starring the same guy!”—take it from me. Don’t waste your money.

My review of Beowulf is here.

I’m considering devoting the rest of my life to destroying the market for that particular irritating piece of political correctness.

Being a codger now, I have to take my pleasures where I can.

Pretending it’s spring

Sorry I’m late. I interviewed a prospective renter this evening (yes, I finally got a call). I’m not going to describe him, because he might be whacko, or he might be a saint. Or neither. But if he’s a saint I don’t want to be talking behind his back.

We ended the meeting on an ambivalent note. One of us may call the other, or not.

The weather has been beautiful, in terms of air-to-skin compatibility and sun-to-earth face time. It was my weekend on set-up team at church, which is always a drag, but when I came back from church on Sunday, my obligation fulfilled, I noticed the bank thermometer said 50°. I went to the local Chinese buffet I just discovered (not the one I told you about before, where the hostess is cute but the food marginal; the hostess at this one is less cute but the food is much better). Then, to make the day perfect, I noticed that the local Dairy Queen has reopened for the spring, so I was able to buy my traditional after-Sunday-lunch Dilly Bar (you’ve got to get the kind made in the store; the factory-made ones in cellophane wrappers aren’t worth the trouble). So the day was perfect. I love Sunday afternoons. I made a commitment years ago that, since I considered myself a professional writer, I wouldn’t write for money on Sundays. That makes the Lord’s Day a weekly break from (some) guilt for me, and I bless the Lord of Sinai for it.

When I got home from work today, most of the snow had already melted from my front lawn. And my basement hasn’t flooded.

It’s not spring yet, but I’ll take what I can get.

Island thoughts

Anthony Esolen, in a post at Touchstone Magazine, shares a poem that contains these lines:

When your mother has grown older,

And you have grown older,

When what used to be easy and effortless

Now becomes a burden,

When her dear loyal eyes

Do not look out into life as before,

When her legs have grown tired

And do not want to carry her any more–

Then give her your arm for support…

It was written by a very famous man. Read the article and be troubled.

Christians, I think, have a leg up in thinking about things like this, because we believe in Original Sin. If you aren’t a Christian and don’t understand what I mean, feel free to ask.

In the room where I slept during my sleep study they had a TV with cable. I hadn’t watched cable in a while. I clicked through the stations, and noticed there was a show about fishermen, and I gathered from the narration that it had to do with crab fishing in the Bering Sea.

This caught my interest, for reasons I’ll explain, but I decided not to watch it because I assumed it wouldn’t relate much to my own experiences.

How wrong I was.

The latest issue of the Sons of Norway’s magazine, Viking, carries an article about that series (“The Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel), and it connects to me in a couple ways.

First of all, the featured fishermen, Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen of Seattle, are Norwegian-Americans. Not only that, but their parents and two of the brothers’ wives (one is single) were born on Karmøy Island, the birthplace of my great-grandfather Walker and one of my favorite places in the world.

Secondly, I spent a summer of my own life processing Bering Sea crab. I wasn’t doing the dangerous work, fishing with a crew, but it was a memorable experience.

My musical group (we spent nine years together) were still in college when our leader said “My cousin just spent this past summer working at a crab meat packing plant in Alaska. He put in a lot of overtime and came home with a pile of money. I think we should do the same thing, and finance a concert tour.”

Although the thought of lots of overtime gave me pause, I went along with the plan. The idea of going to Alaska sounded adventurous (and indeed I’ve found it one of my few sure-fire conversation sparks ever since). So we bought tickets to Anchorage, and from there we took a bush air service to Sand Point (that’s on Popof Island in the Shumagins. The Hansens sail out of Dutch Harbor, which is in the same general area [we touched down there on the flight]. I understand the plant where we worked was closed down long ago).

Popof Island is less than 40 square miles and had, at the time. about three miles of gravel road. It was a frontier place, and we learned something about frontier living. The most important thing about frontier living is that it’s generally, really, really boring. There’s nothing to do when you’re not working your glutes off, which helps explain the popularity of drinking and fighting in such places. Once a month we had to help unload the supply freighter, and the largest single commodity we moved was alcohol. Never was so much booze consumed by so few.

We lived in a “dormitory,” a large house that had once been a hospital, located at the top of a hill. I forget the precise number of steps that went up to it, but I believe it was closer to 100 than fifty.

On Fourth of July morning (a day off, of course) we found a drunk passed out in the basement.

He had a cast on his leg.

Somehow he’d scaled all those steps with his leg in a cast.

There was a desperate emptiness in the place, a feeling of being at the end of the world in a couple senses. Nowhere to go from here. If things don’t work here, drown in the sea or drink yourself to death.

We had a short summer in Sand Point. The crab fishermen went on strike and we didn’t get the expected overtime. We went home earlier than planned, with some money but less than we’d hoped.

I’ve never read a Western quite the same way since then.

Hewitt? I barely know it!

I’m lost without Hugh Hewitt.

He’s on vacation right now, as many of you are aware, and while he’s gone this time he’s chosen to set aside his usual practice of bringing in guest hosts. Instead, he’s replaying a rogue’s gallery of his least pleasant, most hostile interviews. Harsh words are spoken, cutting remarks made. In a few notable cases, people hang up on him.

In other words, he’s turned his show into Michael Medved’s.

Believe me—the last thing I need after three hours of Medved on Disagreement Day is three more hours of Medved.

(Please understand, I like Michael Medved personally, so far as I can determine from listening to his program. I’d very much enjoy having dinner with him, or making small talk over cigars at Lileks’ place [hint, hint]. But only as long as there wasn’t an argument going on.)

I hate arguments. I am to arguments what John Murtha is to any conceivable use of American military force.

Bring back the guest hosts, Hugh! If you can’t find enough people willing to do your show, I’ll take a day. I’ve done radio. I’m a famous pundit.

Just as long as I don’t have to argue with anybody, of course.

Report on my first night with CPAP (for those who care): It went OK. I managed to keep the thing on all night, which many people can’t do at first. I did wake up more often than usual, probably because of the succubus on my face, but I always went back to sleep quickly, which is a rare pleasure of late.

I overslept, having forgotten to set my alarm clock in my concern to set up the CPAP right.

But my energy was good. Better, I think, than it’s been for a while. I ran out of gas in the early afternoon, but one can’t expect miracles right away.

Or maybe it’s all the placebo effect.

What’s that, Phil? You think I should blog about something the readers are actually interested in, now and then?

Hm. That’s a challenge. Vikings? Hats? Sissel Kyrkjebø?

Phil! Where did you learn words like that?

Well, somebody hath murdered sleep

First of all, welcome to any new readers who may have come in by way of the link at The American Spectator. I promise you that I don’t always blog about my physical health.

Sometimes, for variety, I blog about my emotional health.

“How did my sleep study go?” a breathless nation asks. Well, it was different from what I expected in terms of details, but pretty much exactly what I expected in the essentials.

The ambiance was less clinical than I had foreseen, and the bed in the room they gave me (furnished to look like a small motel room) was more comfortable than I expected.

That benefit is lost, though, when you’re trying to sleep with two straps fastened around your body and you have to lie on top of various tubes and wires. For a guy who can be kept awake at night by the sound of a fly walking on the ceiling, it wasn’t promising (by the way, they tell you that the gunk they use to stick the electrodes on in your hair shampoos right out. Consumer report: No. No, it doesn’t).

According to their records, I slept more than I thought I did, but their definition of sleep and mine aren’t entirely congruent. I did get into deep sleep (REM sleep) for a couple of periods. And I had some incidences of apnea (where your throat closes up and you stop breathing).

The thing is, I’m apparently on the low end of the apnea scale. This is a fact that speaks to the paranoid in me. They gave me a CPAP machine and sent me home with it, with the idea that I’d go back to see them in a month and we’d decide whether I’d stay with it or not. However, the doctor also told me it might take six weeks or longer to really see much benefit.

So I can’t help suspecting that my own doctor (who’s actually just a Physician’s Assistant) is getting a kickback from the clinic for sending anybody who remotely resembles a sleep apnea patient to them. And they, in turn, prescribe the machines to anybody who snorts a few times a night.

On the other hand, I do feel tired a lot, and I’d like to have more energy and a better attitude. They tell me this might help.

I have no idea what to do about it.

I went back in to work for the afternoon half-day. I had plenty on my desk, but I took time to give blood at the annual blood drive, because it’s not like they’ll be back next month.

You know that informational notice they make you read beforehand? The one that started out as one sheet, then became two, then three pages? It’s about eight pages now.

I worry that the blood bank people (who do a fine work) are getting safety measured out business.

Imagine giving blood ten years from now. It will probably involve reading 300 pages of closely spaced information and informed consent contracts. It will require taking a whole day off from work and submitting to a strip search, a CAT scan and a rectal examination. You’ll have to fill out a form detailing whom you’ve had sexual relations with, whom you’ve had lunch with, and whom you’ve stood next to in the Men’s Room, along with the social security numbers and sexual histories of all such persons.

And I can see the story on the TV news. “Blood stocks are down again, for the eightieth month in a row. Officials are at a loss to account for the drop in volunteer blood donors.”

And that will be before the HIV activists win the court case recognizing their constitutional right to donate infected blood without being discriminated against.

Knitting up the ravel’d sleeve of care

Tonight I shall not sleep in my own bed. I shall sleep in a bed in a sleep center, with electrodes stuck to my skull, to see if a CPAP machine will improve what is laughingly known as my quality of life.

Knowing me as well as you do by now, you understand that I’m worried about this. I have a hard time getting to sleep most nights in my own familiar bed, even if I’m tired. How I’ll sleep in a strange bed with an electronic snood hooked up to me I can’t quite comprehend.

I figure the technicians will wait in the next room behind a two-way mirror, cracking jokes about me in low voices, a green light from the control panel illuminating their pasty complexions (sleep technicians never see the light of day, after all). One of them—the muscular broad with the shaved head and the tattoos, will keep saying, “I hate this guy. Look at him. What a lump. What a loser.”

And the other one will say, “If he’d just fall asleep, we could catch that late movie on Lifetime.”

And the M.B. will say, “This one? He’s never gonna fall asleep. He’s gonna lie there all night, like the loser he is.”

And the other one will say, “Well, we could always use the Sleep Inducer.”

And the M.B. will say, “Sure. If any moron ever deserved the Sleep Inducer, it’s this creep.”

So she sneaks into the room very quietly, holding a great big mallet behind her back, and she smashes me over the head with it like Bugs Bunny in a cartoon.

And in the morning they’ll ask me how I slept, and I’ll say, “Great. I’m really surprised. But I’ve got this awful headache.”

And the doctor will nod and say, “That’s a common side effect.”

I, pundit

Lars Walker futures took a sudden surge upward today, still down from their 1996 highs but well above their recent bargain basement valuation.

Investor interest rose on news of Walker’s sale of an opinion piece to The American Spectator website. The essay, reported to be a humorous attack on the fashion habits of American seniors, is expected to appear on the magazine’s online service some time this week….

Thanks are due to Hunter Baker, a TAS writer and a frequent commenter here, for badgering me into trying something I’d never done before in a paying market, something I was quite certain I couldn’t carry off. Ben Stein writes for the Spectator site, for Pete’s sake. Who am I?

But man, acceptance feels good.

It’s really pathetic, you know, how much I require tangible validation, how needy I am for credentials. Paul Johnson, in his wicked, marvelous book Intellectuals, tells how Henrik Ibsen (one of my least favorite Norwegians, right down there with Vidkun L. J. Quisling) used to petition the Swedish crown (Sweden ruled Norway in those days) whenever he heard about a medal he hadn’t been awarded yet. And then he’d wear his whole collection on his suit—not just the ribbons but the actual “gongs”—whenever he went out, jingling down the street like a horse with bells on.

I understand why he did that. If I had a medal I’d be tempted to do the same thing. Because I feel inferior to every human being I’ve ever met, including criminals and the mentally disabled. Credentials give me something to wave—“See! See! I’m somebody too!”

Sad as it is, that’s how I am, and that makes today a pretty good day.

In other positive news, I found out Saturday that Sissel will be doing two concerts at the Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota in October. This means, it goes without saying, that I’ll have to make that ten-hour drive in the fall. It also means that I’ll have to try to do both that and the Norway trip I’m trying to arrange, which means I need more money, and I don’t think the Spectator gig will pay that well. Gotta get that renter in the spare room.

I learned about the Sissel concert in Hutchinson, Minnesota, where I drove for a Viking Age Society event. We did live steel in an empty store in a mall there. Every time I have a sword fight, I think it adds an hour to my life. Sold several copies of my books, too, in spite of the low turnout due to weather.

The weather sucked. The blizzard had ended, and the sky was clear, but there was a stiff wind out of—I actually don’t recall where it was coming from. But it was cold. And Highway 7 from Minneapolis to Hutchinson was coated with about a 75% covering of ice. The county, in its wisdom, had apparently elected not to waste any of the taxpayers’ money on fripperies like sand and salt.

So by the time I got to Hutchinson (Sissel playing on the CD player, of course), I was ready to hit something with a sword. Hard.

Technical note: This entire post was written in a reverse chronological order. That’s the kind of textural richness that makes my writing so much in demand among the more discerning of the online media outlets.

At least my carbon footprint is small

I am the man. I’m half horse and half alligator. When I roar, mighty beasts flee.

After a white collar guy like me does a job of work like I did today (and last night), he’s entitled to beat his chest a bit, I think. Because that’s all the reward he’s likely to get.

Picking up last night’s enthralling narrative, not long after I posted yesterday evening I got a call from the school’s dean, saying they were canceling classes tomorrow (that is, today) due to the snow.

I went to bed earlier than usual, needing the rest pretty badly. I didn’t set my alarm clock.

I got up around 7:30, ate my breakfast, and went out to face the day and the evil thereof.

We’d had more snow overnight, and high winds as well, so there was a lot of drifting. I was tempted to think that all my work of the previous night had been wasted, but I think it would have been harder without it.

I had the idea that if I set up my rope-tourniquet differently, I could get a tighter hold and hold a seal on the snowblower tire.

I found that my rope wasn’t strong enough to do what I wanted it to do. It snapped.

So I reverted to Plan B, and took up the shovel again.

Briefly put, it took a long time. I rested frequently, and more often as time went on.

My neighbor’s wife came back from work around 10:00, because her office had closed too. She joined me when I was about half way down the driveway, and together we finished it up.

This is how it looks in my back yard today:

Snow2

It’s snowed some more since, but I don’t think it’s going to interfere with me when I drive to Hutchinson for a Viking Age Society event tomorrow. It’ll be indoors, in a mall, but we’ll do live steel, so I’ll be able to try out my new shield(s):

Shields3

I apologize for the egregious ugliness of the rawhide edging on the finished shield in the picture. It was the first time I’d worked with rawhide, and I went far astray.

I made a point of showing the back of one shield so you could see the handle. This handle construction is (I believe) my own invention, and I predict it will be a major success with live steel fighters, bringing me… nothing at all.

Archaeology tells us that Viking shields (which were made out of boards laid side-by-side, not plywood like these fakes) usually had handles made of wood. But sometimes the wood handles were covered by a gutter-shaped iron covering, making them stronger.

When I bought the wood molding (it has a precise name, but I’ve forgotten it) for my handles, I worried that it wouldn’t be sturdy enough. Finally I decided to buy some thin steel bar stock in a 1” width. I drilled holes for my fastening bolts through both steel and wood, and came up with a fairly light, pretty strong handle, based on the Viking principle.

I’ll see how it works tomorrow.

If I’m able to move after all this shoveling.