Monday was Rotaria’s last day. It had been preceded by an interesting Sunday, wherein Daughter and Rotaria took to the creek in inner tubes for a nice hour of drifting down the stream. It turned into two and a half hours. The stream was twisty and the flow of the water desultory. We had expected them to come up the hill around 3; when it grew nigh to four, I immediately set all the catastrophizing protocols into place.

It is possible they both drowned, and their bodies are bobbing in the branches by the shore, ignored by other tubers because you buy the ticket and you take the ride, kids. It’s a hard game. Or, more likely, they had overshot our neighborhood and proceeded directly to the end point of the creek, the Falls, and were floating lifeless down the Mississippi towards the Gulf.

Eventually I decided to do the drive-around-pointlessly thing, and as soon as I’d made a pass by the creek in our neighborhood my phone rang with an unfamiliar number. I was relieved, to be honest; I knew they’d found land, and were making a call from a stranger’s phone. Sure enough. They were miles from home, burned, soaked, and their knees abraded from some attempts to negotiate the shallows. They’d tried to escape in an area not bounded by homes, only to sink up their shins in a bog.

In short, an adventure!

“Were you freaking out?” asked Daughter, who knows me.

“Yeeessss, because Judith has one more day here, and we get her this close to the finish line only to get her drowned? How would that look? We’ll never get another exchange student.”

“Hah!” says Judith from the back seat in her patented Catalonia bark.

Later we went to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. Reservations at 7. We were a bit late, for reasons that had nothing to do with me, because they never do, to be honest, and I called the restaurant to assure them we were coming.

“So we’ll be there in seven minutes,” I said to the person on the other end of the line.

“Okay. Is this James?”



(Pause, during which all the passengers in the car look at the screen where the phone call is displayed, because, well, that’s odd.)

“Hi,” I said back.

“It’s (name of my niece). I saw you on the reservations list.”

Ah! Gusts of laughter. Well. Who knew she was working there? So we get to the restaurant, and she’s masked up like Bane, as is everyone else on staff. Seating next to two women who were having a conversation that seemed to have the tone of a blind date where everyone knows from the start that this isn’t going to work, and that’s fine, we can have a nice meal. Or old friends who know exactly what the other is going to say, because they’ve heard it before.

“He just wants to kill as many people as possible,” said one, calmly. “It’s what his supporters want. And he wants women to die in back alleys.”

The other woman nodded. Entrees done, no dessert, off they went.

Our dinner was superb. Amusing moment when Wife said to the waiter that this was Judith’s last restaurant visit, she was going back to Spain. The waiter, who had no doubt detected her accent, said “Ah! I am from Mexico.” And they had a brief smile over a shared tongue. After he left she told us how friends from other Spanish-speaking places wanted her to record her voice and show how she said words, because she thought it was so funny, or odd, or weird. What, you mean there’s not ONE SPANISH TONGUE? Get out.

Then her goodbye gifts: a Minnesota T-shirt (she already has one that says UFF-DA) and some local candies and a necklace in the state of the shape AND . . . this was the big success, a small pillow in the shape of the state with a little smiling face, two dots for eyes and a smile. She loved it.

She loved Minnesota. And that’s after all the ghastly horrors of the previous month. She picked up on the essential decency of the place, the beauty, the generosity of spirit, the local patriotism. She saw it at its worst and she still feels a bond.

Tuesday morning I take her to the airport and off she goes and I wonder if I’ll ever see her again. It’s hard. Rotary and exchange are intense. She’s been here during the worst times we’ve had, and made it better.

I edited a video of her time here, and shot something she probably didn’t capture: it’s simply a walk from her room down the hall, down the stairs, to the kitchen, a close-up on the espresso machine she used, then outside - there’s Borch, as she called him when she got here (And Borch loves her and will not understand why she left) - and then to the spot in the backyard where she sat and checked her phone for messages from home. Borch jumps off the chair and runs over.

It’s daily life, nothing more. Because it is daily life, you never think to note it. You shoot the fireworks and the party. But it’s the walk down the stairs in a place you came to call home that means more, years later. There will always be a piece of Minnesota in the heart of a girl from Catalan.





It's 1941.

“I’m sorry, sir, all the men who knew how to play it have been drafted. I’m not even sure if he’s holding it properly.”

The mask slips, and he realizes it’s all been about access to material goods.

She could be a little less gleeful about tossing off all pretense, though.


The pedestrian admission of “stew” takes the shine off “new,” as does the realization that you are expected to improve this humble mess with ketchup.

Then again, it is 1941, and you’d best learn to tighten the belt.

Oh what the hell, contradict the Bible and upend the hopeful meaning of that timeless figure of speech


Then again:

The ancient phrase from the biblical Book of Isaiah, "to turn swords to ploughshares," is still in common use today. These ploughshares represent peaceful use of wartime capabilities.

However, in classical antiquity during the Battle of Marathon, many Persians were slain by a deadly ploughshare-wielding ally who appeared suddenly on the side of the ancient Athenians. After their victory and his disappearance, an oracle told the Athenians to worship the hero under the name Echetlaeus: the hero with the "echetlon", or ploughshare.

Obviously we’re in Canada; should have mentioned this. The ad’s appeal asks the Women of Canada to buy lobster, since the war destroyed the oversea trade.


To help Canada, Canadian woman just buy Canada brand Canadian lobster!

#2 Dude is sexually unfulfilled due to “excess use of water.”

Don't use . . . water! Eww. SLATHER ON THE KREML





Eaton’s, if you’re not familiar with Canadian retailers, was - well, a Canadian retailer. The big one. Hudson Bay, an Eatons.

It had a familiar, lamentable trajectory.

In the 1970s and 1980s, through the provincial government's Ontario Downtown Renewal Programme, Eaton's was a partner in the development of downtown malls in smaller cities, intended to foster the revitalization of urban cores. As the chain formed the anchor of many of these shopping centres, these often carried the "Eaton Centre" name. Nearly all these malls — in cities such as Sarnia, Brantford, Guelph and Peterborough — had high vacancy rates and poor patronage, and contributed to the store's financial problems.

I’m not sure anyone wrote a comprehensive study of downtown malls and their folly. There’s something so hopeful and misguided about the whole episode, and the damage they did to smaller cities.


That'll have to do. Let Webby larf us out today.



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