Thursday, May 11, 2006

Our State Bird is the Common Loon

The Writer's Almanac, from Minnesota Public Radio, is available daily, online. It comes to one of my hundreds of email addresses, and I try to read it every morning. If you have heard it, you know it is done by Garrison Keillor, and it always starts with a poem and ends with "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch®." In the middle, he puts tidbits about that day, usually, but not always, relating to literature. It's great. It makes me crazy. Because of this little daily missive, I have added dozens of books to my wish list. I have read many, many lovely poems by poets old and new. And I have learned many things.

Today, he brought up this:

"On this day, in 1858 the state of Minnesota was admitted into the Union. It's the home of the world's largest Paul Bunyan statue, and it was from Minnesotans that we got the stapler, water skis, and roller blades—not to mention Scotch tape, Bisquick, and Spam."

He's not kidding about the "World's Largest Paul Bunyan Statue", but I can't help but wonder how many there are out there, and if this is really an achievement. I mean, there's a huge enormous Walleye (State Fish) on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs in Garrison, Minnesota, but is anyone squawking about that? Oh. Sorry. And by the way, there is at least one highly disturbing image here, in the answer to the "how many Paul Bunyans" question.

But leave it to Garrison Keillor to leave himself off the list.

I would also like to add:

Prince: Because short guys who are hot and play a mean guitar are awesome.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Don't get me wrong. I didn't make it through "The Great Gatsby" in high school, and I most likely will never go back and try again, but there's something about being a manic-depressive crazy mooching drunken writer FROM MINNESOTA with an equally if not perhaps more crazy wife that I just love.

The First Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg: If you have never been to the Gettysburg Civil War Battlefield Park in Pennsylvania, I highly recommend that you stop by if you are ever in the neighborhood. The statue and plaque honoring the First Minnesota are not hard to find. They are cowering in the shadow of the towering domed marble Pennsylvania monument.

Charles Schulz: Come ON. Snoopy had a Van Gogh and a pool table and a spiral staircase in that little red doghouse. He was a WWI Flying Ace. We have Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy statues all over the Twin Cities. I kinda like it. The real Snoopy used to go to a vet in South Minneapolis.

Jerry Juhl: I did not know this until today. See? Learning.

Paul Wellstone: I met him. I worked for him on his last campaign. I miss him. Whatever you might have thought about his politics, he was truly a good man, a caring man, and someone whose voice is sadly missing from the politcal arena.

Ethan and Joel Coen

Terry Gilliam

Dr. William Worrall Mayo

Eugene McCarthy: What can I say? Sometimes, we make really good politicians.  Sometimes we don't.

The first enclosed shopping mall: This is where I have to interject that I am not necessarily PROUD of all of these things, but the shopping mall is iconic American culture, unfortunately, and it started here because we were too cold to shop outside.

Izzy's Ice Cream: I can't explain. It has to be experienced.

The Mississippi River: Sorry folks, we started it.

More Northern European Protestants than you would even want to shake a stick at. Even though you could because I doubt they would fight back except with withering looks and guilt-inducing sighs.

"Minnesota Nice" which is not really nice at all, but passive-aggressive behavior worthy of competing in the passive-aggressive Olympics but only if you think it's OK. No, no really. I don't need to. It's fine. I didn't really want to anyway. Don't worry about me.

Target, which we love, but which we wish would stop giving so much money to republican candidates because then maybe all the generous community and educational programs that they have would either not be as necessary or might be more effective.

A remarkably frustrating tendency to undervalue ourselves and rename our home-grown companies such as Norwest, Dayton's, and Minnesota Public Radio.

Minnesota Public Radio

We have a State Reptile (Blandings Turtle); a State Muffin (Blueberry, not my cat, whose name is not even "Muffin", but "Fritz", but "Muffin" is his nickname, and I have no idea why); a “territory motto” from back in the day that went wrong somewhere in the translation, and actually wound up not meaning anything, instead of almost something, which is why pioneers should not try to use Latin; and a state song that I have never even heard, but which is appropriately called "Hail! Minnesota" though if you punctuated it differently, it would be a command, and that would be even more fun: "Hail, Minnesota!"

Fake Pre-american history It’s like our very own little Shroud of Turin, but without the imprint of the dead guy.

LeRoy Neiman Again, not because I am proud, more like, I am repulsed yet strangely compelled. It’s head-shaking nonsense… but I can’t stop looking… and the MOUSTACHE. Oh Holy Porn Lord, that’s rich.

And I would mention Bob Dylan, but he never mentions us, so he’s done, and I never liked him anyway.

And I am a little depressed that our State Drink is Milk. Not because I am lactose intolerant, or anything, but, well... MILK? COME ON, people. I guess I understand that our state drink really can’t be one of our excellent local beers, but MILK?! Any old mammal can make milk; it’s not really that hard or much of an accomplishment, nor were we originally designed to drink it past infancy or without chocolate cake.

All in all, I would have to say that it's good to live here, nice to be from here, and I have no plans on leaving, though it is pleasant to visit other places, and if I do come to see you, don't make a big bother because I don't like fuss and no no, really, I don't need any breakfast, and I'll bring my own beer, and PLEASE, sit down, I'll get it myself. It's ok. I don't mind.

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