Archive for December 2011

Departures

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm
By: Doug Lund
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And, all of a sudden, it’s time once again for the grand exodus from the Lund abode. My son-in-law, Joe, has been hauling up great stashes of luggage, Christmas presents and other odds and ends from downstairs (their home for the last several days) into the car and the journey back to Lincoln, Nebraska.

How does Santa do it? says son in law, Joe as he packs up his sleigh for the trip home to Lincoln.

How does Santa do it? says son in law, Joe as he packs up his sleigh.

Christmas 2011 070There’s always a sadness when it comes time for this ritual especially since one piece of the precious cargo they’re taking along is 10 year old Zoey. It was grandpa date night Tuesday so we went to see the movie, “We Bought A Zoo.” We shared a bag of popcorn seasoned to her specifications with a white cheddar powder you can now purchase at theater snack bars. We both agreed that the film, about a widowed father (Matt Damon) who buys a rundown zoo in order to get closer to his two children, was good. I’m always puzzled, though, as to why, when it’s clearly a family movie, they feel obliged to include a few swear words in the dialogue. I slunk down in my seat a little bit out of embarrassment for Zoey, a fourth grader, who I know probably hears words like that and much worse on a regular basis but I’d rather she wasn’t exposed to such language on my watch..especially since it was so unnecessary in this movie.

Too much of a prude? Well..too bad.

Alarms went off at four O’clock Thursday morning rousing everyone from their slumber in order to get son James up and off to the airport in plenty of time to catch his flight home in Oakland through “Chicago.” We hope see him again in a couple weeks if he can get a cheap flight to  Phoenix.

Yup..we’ll be spending another New Year’s eve on the road somewhere in New Mexico on our way to Fountain Hills Arizona..our home for the next month. They’ve already had huge snow storms and road closings along the route we take but, if weather sources on the internet are to be trusted, the snow has been replaced with sunshine and mild temperatures the entire way.

Linda has been busy packing and crossing things off the list of things we absolutely need to take along. But, in spite of our fool proof method of checks and balances, there is sure to be that point in our travels (usually while crossing Nebraska) when one of will have that palm-slapping-the-forehead moment  followed by a mild expletive (not unlike the one Zoey heard at the movie) indicating we’d forgotten something. So far, it’s never been anything important enough to turn around and go back for. I’ll let you know what it is this time.

While Linda packs, I’m responsible for getting my clothes out, paying the bills, planning our route and getting the car serviced which took on special significance this year since Big Red has had a few issues. The guy at the lube place pronounced Red fit for travel so, with his blessing and a few prayers from me, we’re off.

As always, there’ll be no vacation from Lund at Large while we’re gone so keep checking in. I promise..no gloating about wintering in the warmth while my fellow Midwesterners suffer through the cold and snow. But, hey, maybe there won’t be any snow or subzero temperatures at all this winter. I know it certainly hasn’t been the kind of weather we’re usually anxious to escape from.

As we watch 2011 disappear in the rear view mirror…feel free to share what kind of year it’s been for you.

You all certainly have my best wishes for health and happiness in the New Year which I can just see out the front window coming up on the horizon.

Christmas is Grand(kids)

Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Hannah "Grouse" Hawkins' first encounter with the big jolly guy

Hannah "Grouse" Hawkins' first encounter with the big jolly guy

It is so much fun to listen to my cousin, Grouse, get completely out of character when he starts talking (gushing, really) about his first grandchild, Hannah. He was, and is, a good dad but for years I’ve been telling him about the special joys of grandparenthood. He, and wife Sandy, now totally understand and..with big grins on their faces..think nothing of loading up the Hyundai with gifts and goodies and driving all the way to Kansas City once a month to shower that child with adoration.

I’ve gone on and on here about Linda and my grandkids and how they’ve enriched our lives. The trouble is, all but two have grown up and the youngest ones (ages 10 and 6) no longer burst out of the car, run up to door and squeal with delight at the very site of you. They’re no longer so free with the hugs and kisses or as fascinated by how you can grab the nose from their faces and have it magically appear between your fingers or build majestic castles from a pile of Legos. Just like their parents before them and in spite of our efforts to control time, they are moving onward and upward at the speed of light anxious to experience all that life has in store for them leaving grandma and grandpa in a cloud of dust.  Oh, Linda and I aren’t feeling sorry for ourselves..far from it. We’ve been truly blessed with our combined families and when they’re here for Christmas it is an absolute delight for me in particular to just sit with a glass of wine listening to them laugh and share memories. It’s a real George Bailey moment that always makes me proud and thankful to God.

I gotta admit, though, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of Grouse and Sandy as they’re just now entering the ground floor of a skyscraper filled with so many levels of joy..all there for the taking in the years ahead.

Up until about 8 years ago, My brother, Tom and his wife, Ilene, had yet to experience the delights of doting over a new generation of offspring..but then, Oh My. Well see for yourself.

Linda and I have only seen one of their grandkids in person..a situation we hope to correct this summer with a grand gathering of Lunds in South Carolina.

Linda and I have only seen one of their grandkids in person..a situation we hope to correct this summer with a grand gathering of Lunds in South Carolina.

Tom has written songs for each of those eight adorable little ones marveling at the hearts capacity for unconditional love.

 I’ve heard a few moans and groans about the lack of snow around here for Christmas. I don’t mind it so much. In fact, it’s sort of fun to hear the roar of engines coming from passing motorcycles rather than snow blowers. Here’s a Holiday Harley that caught my eye on East 26th the other day.

random 037

 I just found out this past week that Linda and I get to host another tour for Keloland and Holiday Vacations next summer; this time to Ireland in September. Excitement abounds..details to come. I’ve also signed a deal to continue as the “Voice of Keloland” for another year and hope to continue visiting with you folks here a couple times a week on the Lund at Large forum which Keloland.com so generously provides.

Let me use it now to say “Thank You” to all who follow my meanderings and wish you a very “Merry Christmas.”

The Answer Man

Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm
By: Doug Lund
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55 seems pretty darn young to be retiring from a career; especially a career that you’ve been very very good at. But that’s just what Steve Munk is doing after 31 years as Minnehaha County Extension agent.

steve munk kelo grab

Long before the internet was around, we reporters at Keloland would use Steve as our “Google” whenever we needed an authority to interview for stories ranging from when to trim trees, how to murder noisy cicadas, how to properly disinfect a flooded basement or explain the nutritional value of processed foods,  we’d automatically call Munk.  He had all the answers and if he didn’t, he’d find out and call us back.

steve munk alvy mooreWe used to kid him about being our Hank Kimball..but unlike the frustratingly inept character from the long-since-gone TV series, “Green Acres,” Steve always knew what he was talking about and had no problem articulating his explanations in front of the camera. He was, and is, just a valuable source of information on nearly any subject you can think of..not to mention, a real nice guy to boot.

Now, he’s leaving.

“What’s up Steve?” I said when I called him this morning. “You haven’t been caught up in a wave of county downsizing over there have you?”  “Oh no,” he said..explaining that he had the option to retire at 55 and decided to take it. “Well,” I said, “I can identify with leaving a job you love but at least I waited until I was 60; plus, I’m basically a lazy oaf who can plop down on the couch in front of the TV for hours without an ounce of guilt; that’s not in your genetic make up..so what are you going to do really; I mean besides a few home projects and a bit of travel?

I was fishing for a scoop..hoping he might tell me that after a dozen years on the fair board, he was going to take over as manager of the Sioux Empire Fair…something like that.  But he’s not..at least not for now.

Well, how about politics? Steve had served on the Dell Rapids School board for 12 years and pushed hard for the many improvements and new construction that’s transpired over there in that time.

Maybe he’s considering a run at public office on a larger scale. You could do a lot worse. No one doubts he’s a wealth of knowledge and has plenty of recognition from all his appearances on local TV..including Public Broadcasting’s “Garden Line.”  Unfortunately for me, Steve has also mastered the art of political evasion and, while he said he certainly wouldn’t rule out running for office down the road, he wouldn’t fess up to having any particular goals in mind at present. “Will you let me be the first to know if you should run for anything?” I asked. “Sure will,’ he said.  

Changing the subject, I asked Munk about some of the more unusual inquiries he’s gotten from people over the years. “Well,” he said, “There was the time when somebody brought in a dead snake in a paper sack for us to identify..which we did. Many others have asked if the bugs pulled from their child’s hair are head lice. Once a lady brought in a sample of her dog’s vomit in hopes we could use it to diagnose the animal’s ailment. But, it’s all been a part of the joy of the job; being able to come up with solutions or offer suggestions to folks’ who have problems or issues no matter how bizarre.”

Sounds to me like just the kind of fresh face we could use in Washington or Pierre.  What’s that joke about politicians? Oh, yeah..they’re like babies. They need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.

What’s In Your Wal (Mart)

Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm
By: Doug Lund
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I  brought my camera along to Wal-Mart today just in case I should spot somebody whose bizarre appearance in the shopping aisles would qualify them for  the People of Wal-Mart” website; candid photos of shoppers who, shall we say,  stand out from the crowd. Actually, I’d never do that no matter how strange others may appear. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if my picture would pop up on there showing me in my black stretch pants with the stripe down the side and a black hooded sweatshirt that had been a little too big until Linda ran it through the dryer. Anyway, I looked as if I could be the subject for a Johnny Cash song.

“In Wal-Mart, eh?”

Yes, I confess that’s where I bought my new glasses, a few groceries and a couple Christmas gifts today. It’s also where I got a new flat screen TV a few months ago. I’d rather shop someplace else that carried more American-Made stuff but that’s not what our grandkids had on their lists and I also simply can’t afford to ignore cheaper prices.

I spotted many of you in there too..so don’t judge me too harshly.

I’m back at Dunn Brother’s Coffee Shop having a brew of the day from Guatemala and dealing with a headache; a dizzy feeling, actually, from the new glasses I suspect. I hope it’s just a matter of getting used to the minor corrections that were diagnosed and not something else like a Chinese optmetrist with an axe to grind.

I came close to colliding with two fellow cart pushing Wal-Mart shoppers today at an aisle intersection; both were staring at their cell phones which brings me to the latest attempt by the National Transportation Board to ban cell phone use by drivers of motor vehicles in an effort to force them into paying attention to the road. My first thought when I read about it this morning was..okay do whatever you have to do to ban people from texting or surfing the web or playing games while driving but you can’t stop them from talking on the phone..especially if it’s a hands-free phone. What’s next.., banning radios from vehicles so driver’s aren’t distracted when they want to change stations? Or how about GPS systems?  No way they should be visible to the driver. In fact, PASSENGERS should not be allowed; especially kids in the back seat; too distracting. Make no mistake, texting while driving is just plain dumb and extremely dangerous and I’d be in favor of anyway to legislate its elimination..but to outlaw drivers from all cell phone use just isn’t realistic. This is one of those proposed laws aimed at making proponents feel good about themselves but it’s not necessary and totally unenforceable. I’m afraid, though, they may speak out with such force as to pressure the feds into withholding highway money (legalized extortion)from states that don’t comply.

At the risk of sounding like the old guy yelling at kids to get off my lawn, l just don’t understand this constant need to be texting in the first place… or tweeting for that matter. Why isn’t calling and speaking directly to people good enough?  On our recent trip to New England we toured a couple college campuses, including Harvard.and MIT.  I was a bit surprised to see all these brilliant students walking around from building to building without ever looking up from their I-Phones; great peripheral vision too because none of them were run down crossing the streets even though it’s likely most of the drivers were texting or surfing too.

Hey, maybe everybody should be required to get around on motorcycles or snowmobiles..earch requires the use of both hands; problem solved.

 

Into my third cup of joe now and my headache’s gone. It could be due in part to the wonderful Christmas tunes playing in the background. I don’t mind some of the jazzy versions of Christmas standards but If I never hear another rendition of Deck The Halls by Trans-Siberian Orchestra or an electronic rendering of Mr. Grinch by Manheim Steamroller, it’ll be too soon. Oh, and does anybody else wish they could leave the room whenever someone breaks into a rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas..the song that never ends? I also don’t find songs written in minor keys to be very uplifting or mood enhancing; songs like We Three Kings (which I was forced into singing with my cousin Lawrence and classmate, John Bjerke during the Christmas Church program every year in our youth) What Child is This..or Little Drummer Boy. (pa rum pa pa pum)

Geeze Lund, you sound like Scrooge before his conversion.

Shopping at a busy Chinese outlet store like Wally World will do that to ya.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm
By: Doug Lund
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“Are you guys headin’ South for the winter again?”

Linda and I have been answering that question a lot lately and, since we haven’t missed a January in Phoenix for the last 16 years, the answer is yes..but just barely yes. Thanks to some unforeseen and unwarranted issues with Social Security, our annual sojourn to Arizona was in serious jeopardy due to lack of adequate funds. We have managed to weather the storm. So, Ive fixed the leaky seal in Big Red’s rear end (Our 12 year old Lincoln Town Car for those who never read the blog) and even though he’s got over 150 thousand miles racked up on the odometer, we’re gonna trust the old boy to get us there and back one more time.

Big Red waiting out a New Mexico snow storm last February

Big Red waiting out a New Mexico snow storm last February

We had considered flying to Arizona non stop on Allegiant this time..then renting a cheap car for our month’s stay. But, even with high gas prices and motel rentals, it will be more financially feasible to drive. Besides, there’s no way we can cram a month’s provisions, clothing, computers and golf clubs into a couple suitcases if we’d opted to fly. Now, there’s the other concern; weather.  New Mexico, where snow storms have on at least three occasions ground our journey to a stand-still, has already been blasted by a winter storm closing schools and all travel. We’re hoping to dodge that bullet when it’s our turn to pass through in a couple weeks.

Excuse me just a sec:

I had to stop and let the appraisers in the house. No, we’re not selling..just refinancing to take advantage of the cheaper rates and to free up a few bucks so we can maybe put Big Red out to pasture if he starts to act up. I’ve already been in touch with Nordstrom’s which is preparing a place for when it’s time to take that last ride. Like White Lightnin’ before him, Red will be donating his usable body parts so that other needy Lincolns may survive and continue to roll on. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary for a while yet but that newer model Buick Lacrosse sure gets my juices flowing.

Be right back..the appraisers are leaving.

That didn’t take long; less than 15 minutes to take their measurements, a few photographs and they’re gone. $450 bucks.  I guess we can’t redo the mortgage without an official appraisal but that sure seems spendy for what little they had to do.

Albert Pujols certainly won’t ever have to refinance his house to have a little walkin’ around money.

Albert Pujols laughing all the way to the bank

Albert Pujols laughing all the way to the bank

The St. Louis Cardinal’s superstar has decided to leave the team where he rose to legendary status over eleven seasons and collected a couple World Series rings, and go play for the Los Angeles Angels. It turns out that it really IS all about the money. The Cardinals offered the soon-to-be 32 year old Pujols a big fat long term contract to stay but the Angels came up with a few million more and off he goes..to hell with the team..to hell with the fans hello ten year contract and 254 million dollars!  Good for him, I suppose but you gotta wonder just how much money is enough money for ball players. If Pujols comes on TV and says he did it to make sure his family would be financially set I think I’ll puke.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah, winter travel. We’re counting heads figuring out how many we’ll have for Christmas

Our desert daughter, Christy, won’t be flying or driving home from Phoenix this year nor will grandson, Taylor, the Marine, who remains on duty in California. We still have to worry about daughter Suzan and her family getting here from Nebraska and son, James making sure he catches his flight from Oakland. Everybody else lives pretty close to home. There have been a couple marriage “adjustments” among family members in the past year which is never pleasant and will mean for fewer faces around the dinner table and having to share grandkids more than usual.

scroogeBut it’s still the most wonderful time of the year at least according to the Andy Williams song which is probably my favorite holiday tune and puts me right in the Christmas spirit. I also drifted in that direction earlier this week when I caught myself watching A Christmas Carol on TV. It was the George C. Scott version..the best in my view..and at the end I felt a rush of holiday cheer wash over me when Scrooge awoke on Christmas morning to discover that in spite of a ghastly night of ghost traveling, he hadn’t missed the chance to change and did.

Now, if it would only snow..my Christmas mood would be complete.

Wait…what am I saying? We’ve got traveling to do.

Wok Right In

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm
By: Doug Lund
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I love Chinese food; well, most of it anyway. I’ll leave the sea weed, rumaki (chicken livers) deep fried whole fish and chicken feet dishes to those with more adventurous palates. I realize that Asian cuisine offered in this country has been dumbed down for American sensibilities but that’s okay because I’m a sensible dumb American  I remember my first exposure to it was through a double decker can of Chun King chow mein back in my high school days.

chinese chun king

My mom was a terrific cook but her menu choices were based on familiarity. So it was a bit shocking when one evening for supper she placed before us a bowl of limp vegetables mixed with diced chicken swimming in a slimy translucent sauce. Then she took a pan of hot crunchy noodles from the oven and told us to dig in. Well, the only thing I knew about Chinese  were Charlie Chan movies and comic books showing American soldiers fending off attacks by hordes of them during the Korean War.  But mom insisted we give this a try.

Instead of the usual salt and pepper on our table, there was a bottle of strange dark liquid called La Choy soy sauce which, according to the directions, was to be sprinkled to taste over the rather unappetizing pile on our plates. One by one, we slowly sampled this exotic concoction and much to our delight, all found it to be delicious and asked if mom had another can on the shelf to warm up so we could have seconds. She may have gotten the idea from seeing this commercial.

YouTube Preview Image

 

I still get hungry for canned chow mein and crispy noodles to this day.

When I first moved to Sioux Falls in 1969, I used to frequent the newly opened Ming Wah restaurant for lunch. It was located just a block or so from where I worked and I really liked their egg foo young, shrimp fried rice and chow mein which turned out to be even better than the canned stuff.

During the 70’s, after playing music at the Red Lantern Lounge, several of us would head over to the Canton Café on Main Avenue which stayed open until 3 a.m. on weekends. That’s where I learned to love a wider variety of Chinese food like cashew chicken, Mongolian beef, teriyaki beef on a stick and egg rolls. The Canton’s egg rolls were the best I’ve ever tasted then or since. I don’t know what made them so special but if I had the recipe I’d open an egg roll shop and get rich. The Canton Cafe..named for a region in China not the town South of Sioux Falls, eventually relocated to West 12th street but kept the same menu and our business until the family decided to sell out several years ago..a sad day indeed. Since then, Chinese restaurants have opened all over Sioux Falls..most using the world “Golden” in their name for some reason which can lead to customer confusion I would think.

Yumm..and don't spare the MSG (most of the concerns are unfounded)

Yumm..and don't spare the MSG (most of the concerns are unfounded)

Linda likes Chinese food okay but wouldn’t care for a steady diet of it like me. In fact, I’ve been kind of doing my own city wide taste test; sampling two or three of my favorite dishes from each of the 8 to 10 Asian restaurants in Sioux Falls.  (I don’t count buffets because I think proper Chinese food was meant to be served hot and fresh from the wok..not scooped out of a metal pan at a steam table.) The truth is, everybody’s tastes vary so much it would be difficult for me to pick one restaurant over another and go unchallenged. I like most of them but for different reasons. Szechwan has the best egg rolls and brown sauce for cashew chicken. Kow Loon is my favorite for Orange beef; Golden Harvest for Mongolian Beef and Golden Dragon for sweet and sour.  Plus it depends on which cook is working the wok. Consistency is important and that’s not always the case at some places. 

 I do make Chinese food at home once in a while and its okay but I still prefer the adventure of going out to do some culinary exploration. Besides, I don’t have fortune cookies. (An American invention not Chinese.)

If you’d care to share some thoughts about your favorite Chinese restaurant and why…please leave a comment below.

Now, all this talk about Asian dining has my gut growling so loud the  neighbor’s dog started barking.  Oh, no wonder..it’s a Shih Tzu.