Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day Trip

I was driving home Friday night on a low tank of gas in an electrical storm the size of freaking Montana on the flat plain between Rochester and La Crosse, where I was pretty sure I was going to be struck by lightning or maybe just run down by a tornado, or run out of gas and then be struck by lightning or run down by a tornado, when I realized that this was all worth the loveliness that was a day trip in which I met Christie in Cannon Falls.

Cannon Falls is pretty close to the middle of the trip from my house in La Crosse to Christie’s house in St. Michael, so given that we both had absolutely nothing to do last Friday, we decided to meet up there and spend the day together.
Our day was spent being tourists around the small downtown area. From a wine tasting in a winery run by a man named Vincent from France…
…to an antique shop that used to be a bank, housing more useless and musty doodads (5 points!) than I've seen in a while...I mean things like empty instrument cases and things I thought were Morse Code devices, but who knows what they really were…
…to an ancient pink building that turned out to be someone’s house. (Whoops.)
…to Cannon Valley Trail, an old train route which my grandfather (not the one that smells like the man from the garden center; the other one) founded, complete with an abandoned train depot and raspberry bushes along the first .5 out of 20 miles which we walked…
…to a lovely dinner in a deli with checkerboard floors and a lovely fountain-clad outdoor dining area. 
Here's the deal: put an historic city in front of me with old buildings and small diners and, I dunno, hanging baskets, and I WILL EAT THAT SH** UP. Throw Christie in there, and I'm giddy with that strange emotion that I feel when I lay in my hammock or smell the herbs I've planted or have a dream about a town covered with popcorn.  What is that called again? 
Oh yes: happiness. 

Friday, June 25, 2010


Though this summer has been mostly successfully relaxing so far, I realized yesterday that I had not hung out in my favorite place in the entire world:  my hammock. Really, how could I have forgotten?  How could I have thought about summer plans for a single second and not thought hammock, Hammock, HAMMock HAMMOCK!!!  How could I have neglected my spirit so?  What’s wrong with me?!  So last evening I sat in my hammock.

It was even more wonderful than I remember.  I started reading, at first, but then I couldn’t help but close my eyes and in that moment I did something:  I freaking REALIZED. I realized how great it is that my parents have become so obsessive about bribing birds to hang out near our house by putting an a**load of feeders in the backyard, because there scads and scads (I'm couting that as 10 points!) of freaking birds chirping and singing that our backyard is never not filled with music.  And I realized that it was probably the perfect evening ever; a smattering (5 points!) of clouds here and there, a tiny breeze, and the tired warmth of the six o’clock sun. I realized that we need more trees; not that we need the shade or anything like that, I just like trees.  I realized hammocks are probably the coolest invention known to humankind.

One bird was courageous enough to come and visit me. Usually these persnickety (5 points!) birds are too full of themselves to eat when we irritating humans are around (they’ll wait smugly on the fence until we leave), but this little guy must have been really freaking hungry.  Good for him. 

For those of you who don't have a hammock, you know how to fill that inexplicable hole.  Menards has them. So does everywhere else. Don't make me tell you twice. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Burritos and Garden Center Employees Who Smell Like My Grandfather

There’s a new, tiny, authentic Mexican diner in La Crosse called “Burritos House”, and that’s really how the name of the place is written—no punctuation, nothing fancy, just “Burritos House.” Which, of course, makes me wonder, How am I supposed to read this? Should I look at it as a poor translation meaning “The House of Burritos?” Could it mean “The Burrito House,” a place to buy burritos?  My favorite translation, which I choose to continue to imagine, is “Burrito’s House”—a tiny house owned by a giant burrito, ironically named Burrito, and he’s inviting us inside to taste his culinary specialty, you guessed it: burritos.  I like the cut of your jib, Burrito. (5 points!)

I was told by an outside source that before I tried Burrito’s specialty, I should definitely eat the seasoned pork tacos with the salsa verde. So I did.  And let me tell you: I would kill a man and knock down and old woman on a walker to receive another ethereal (5 points!) bite of something, anything, slathered with that salsa verde. Sweet fancy Moses.

[I washed it down with some delicious Mexican apple soda. Mmmmmmmmm.]

After lunch, I took a quick trip down to my favorite garden center looking for some new cilantro plants. I was helped by a sweaty employee in a dirty shirt who smelled like my grandpa. First the talk was just, you know, “D’you have any cilantro?” but then somehow turned into him and I traipsing around the garden center, and the sweaty employee telling me all the cool things about his favorite plants. 

Apparently his mother used to keep scented geranium bushes in the house, and whenever she had company, she would rub the leaves together and the scent would spread throughout the whole house.  Also, some fruit-bearing trees that are kept in really good soil in perfect conditions and are fed well won’t bear fruit because they’re too comfortable. They get too content and become lazy, so they don’t want to go through the work of bearing fruit. So what this sweaty employee likes to do is take a child’s plastic bat and start smacking the crap out of the tree’s trunk, and every time it starts producing fruit by the next season. I like this guy.

[I of course didn’t take any pictures while I was there, so here’s a shot of the four new lavender plants we put on the side of our house. Lovely, aren’t they?]

I’ll admit, I was in a rut this week. The “do something blogworthy every day” idea flew out the window and was replaced by a three-day pity party, in which I had nothing to blog about besides complaints, so I didn’t.  It's nice to know that, when the Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed, when it seems like more and more people hate each other every day, when personal problems eat you up, and all you'd like to do is fix all the world's problems...there's still Burritos House, lavender, and sweaty Garden Center employees who would like to tell you about nicely whacking trees with a baseball bat.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Simply RADISHing Day

I already regret that title. Ew. A lot of my puns always sound so good before I say them, and then afterwards, could make even the Get Fuzzy comic writer Darby Conley go give me a sideways glance.  (“You’re a cat with a dream to be a dictator? What are you, Benito Meowsolini? Fidel Catstro? Adolf Spitler?”  ShutthehellUP, Darby! You used to be so good!)
[I miss the days when you used to make me laugh, instead of make me regret the days I ever started loving you.]

Anyway, I picked our first radishes today, which is really the only reason for the janky (5 points!) title. They’re almost all full grown now, spicy as heck, and we have (as one of the most irritating people I’ve ever met says…) a veritable shmillion of them.
[Aren’t they pretty?]

The weather channel couldn’t stop warning everyone around here that there is a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING coming tonight, so to appreciate all of the precious time we had left on this earth, I went to Riverside with my good friend who I call “Tego.” We also got some candy and other delicious things at the Pearl Street Soda Fountain.  
 And speaking of fountains, the one in Riverside was freaking going kuh-rayzaay in the pre-storm wind.

[If only I had a kite.  I shall get on that.]

Oh, and I stopped my car, made an illegal U-turn on a busy street, and frantically searched through my car for a quarter to buy a lukewarm glass of green Kool-Aid from a kid selling it in his yard.  It would have been more worth it if I had brought my damn camera.

And yes, the Weather Channel was right; it's raining, some would say it's pouring, and I'm pretty sure, at this time of night, some old man somewhere is snoring. If the rest of that prophetic poem also comes true, I feel very sorry for the old man's family.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jesus and/or Harry Potter Try to Escape Jail and/or Azkaban

I’ve been on a dream hiatus for the past couple months, as you have probably noticed. Not that I haven’t been having dreams; they’ve just been totally lame. (Buying Christmas presents the day before, running from something dangerous with people only I know, lame stuff like that.)

But last night I had something that could maybe be called an acceptably-blogworthy dream.

First of all, I was Jesus. I think.  I was Him for the beginning of the dream, anyway. (My theology major friends at Bethel are probably shaking their heads. “That’s a horrible sin, Brian, pretending to be Jesus.”  Well it gets worse, my friends.)

I was in some sort of jail, awaiting, apparently, my crucifixion. Not very happy about this, I decided to try and escape.  Not very Christ-like.  As I looked out of my jail cell, which was pretty plain—cheap carpet, one bench, no bathroom—I called over my friend Hagrid, who was being forced to work for the dastardly (5 points!)  bad guy who was locking us all in there. (Here’s where it gets worse, theology majors…) I wasn’t Jesus at all; I was Harry Potter.

(This was probably related to the fact that I ate, drank, and breathed Harry Potter for the last couple months, reading through the whole series from Christmas to the first week in June.)

Hagrid said that it was probably not the best idea to try to escape, but he would let me out anyway. I pulled Hermione with me (yes, I was definitely Harry Potter), and we passed Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonnagal on the way, who pretended not to see us.
[It’s hard to draw a giant as a stickman, okay?!]

Luckily I found a beach ball along the way, which I used as a floatation device when I jumped off the island (did I mention this jail was on an island?) and into the freezing cold water.  I was prepared for this cold water because I had tried to escape the day before, on the other side of the island, which was actually a snowy mountain, and I skied down it as I met a 9-year-old girl who was training for the 2020 Olympics, but somehow I was captured and brought back to the jail.  (That’s right, people; I have fake memories in my dreams, which keep the plotline going.)

Anyway, I used the beach ball to float me across the sea to the mainland.

And I found there a series of doors. Bollocks (5 points!), I thought, I don’t want to deal with the freaking Chamber of Secrets again! But the first door I tried opened just fine to someone’s living room, and a little girl answered the door.

“Hi, little girl,” I said, freezing, “Will you please rescue me?”
“Okay,” she said, nicely.

I came in and dried myself off, but before I could even sit down, a person who I think was her father came in.  Oh no! He was one of the bad guys working for the jail!

“What, did you think I wouldn’t recognize you without your glasses?”
Dammit. Forgot about the scar.

And so I got kicked back to the jail, where I was put on the fast track to crucifixion. Apparently I was Jesus again.

Then something strange happened, something that has never happened to me in a dream.  As I was standing in line, waiting to be killed, my mind was transported to a different state of being and suddenly I was Brian Schroeder, watching The Passion of the Christ on my television.

“Urgh, this is too gruesome. It’s powerful and really means a lot to me, but I’m just not in the mood to watch this right now.”  I said, and I switched the Television off.

And then I woke up.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Soggy Day

Not the best of days today.  I would elaborate as to why, but I feel as though that would just make this a complainer’s blog, which I so adamantly vowed, from the beginning, to never let Popcorn Day become. Let me just say this: after five days of rain, I’ve been forced by Mama Nature herself to not cut the grass in my yard for waaaaaaay too long.  So today, when I was already experiencing a bit of an attitude problem, I set out to mow my lawn. said it would storm later in the day, but I figured that I would be able to outrun it. You can guess what happened, I’m sure; halfway through finishing the yard, it started pouring rain.
[Bollocks. 5 Points even in a bad mood.]

Anyway, I moved on from that and am now determined to talk about something happy.  So let’s take a look at my weekend, shall we?

My cousins came over to visit for the weekend, and one of my favorite things that we did was head down to Caledonia Street for some lunch. First a little about Caledonia Street.  This place is such a strange area, because it’s filled with dozens of fun shops, including one of the first Maid-Rite diners and a wonderful old place named simply, “The Sweet Shop,” which I have written about before. What’s so strange about it is that it always seems deserted—a lovely little street frozen in a quiet moment.

Anyway, on Saturday I had my second Maid-Rite ever (my first Maid-Rite was on Friday).  I still don’t understand how loose ground beef on a cheap bun with some cheese pages can be so addicting and enjoyable, but it most definitely is. Maybe the wonderful little diner with its very own regulars that know each other’s names have something to do with it.

And someone was really thinking when they plunked (5 points!) an ice cream parlor ten feet away from a diner that serves extremely salty culinary pastimes!
[The sign in front of the Sweet Shop says "Summer at the Sweet Shop, some are not." The reason for that? They're all at Maid-Rite and planning to jump over there in about twenty minutes.]

I have just greeted this Monday with a funk, that’s all.  I plan to be better by later tonight…or tomorrow…or Wednesday, which says should be sunny.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Day with My Dog

When the freaking roofers were making so much freaking noise in the house that I just couldn’t freaking take it anymore, I decided to take my dog Maggie to Riverside to get away from it all for a few hours. Ben, my poor cat, had to remain at home.
[Just look at that happy face. That means stop staring at my dog's butt, sicko.]

I don’t know whether it was the beautiful weather, or the rush of doing something illegal (there may or may not be an indiscriminate, miniscule yellow sign that says “No Dogs Allowed In The Park”), but Mags and I had a wonderful time.  I sat and read while Maggie sniffed the air, barked at the occasional passerby, and was chastised by me for barking at the occasional passerby.

Things were going well, I thought, when she sat down. Perfectly, in fact, when she laid in the grass. Amazingly when she saw a squirrel and only pointed silently.
["I'm going to politely kill that fuzzy-tailed twerp." 5 points for my well-vocabulated canine!]

My jaw dropped and I realized Mags was in heaven when she started chewing on a stick. And I, reading the overly-lovely Eat, Pray, Love, couldn't be happier. 

I’ll return to talking about normal things when I stop being distracted by cutesy-wootsy puppy-wuppy things. Goodness. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Sacrifice Required for a New Roof

We’re getting a new roof today. The installers have been here since around 8am, which was really enjoyable to wake up to.

I’m about to go out to a nice park or something because the noise is driving me positively batty. My pets have it worse, though; my dog Maggie’s ears have had a very abused/concerned/pissed look to them all day, and when I let her out, she couldn’t ‘do her business’ because she was too suspicious about the activity that was going on above her.

And my cat is in an undisclosed location. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Weekend of Living Things and Rain

I remember my high school science teacher who would allow us, every Monday, to share what happened the past weekend.  Everyone would share their weekend stories, and when it came to me (the attention-prostitute that I am), I spewed the most entertaining and titillating story I could possibly muster.  It was during this weekly ritual that I first spoke of the Popcorn Day dream, actually.

Well, it’s Monday, and in the name of high school science, I will share what I did this weekend.

It was rather rainy weekend. 
[Notice the water drops in the birdbath. And the fact that I moved my lavender plant to a bigger pot. He looks much more comfortable in there.]

And on this wet Saturday, I decided to give four potted plants THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES.

First a back story on these four. When I was in France last summer, I took a day trip up from Paris to Giverny, the wonderful little town that has the pleasure of holding Monet’s famous gardens (read about my time here).  After taking giant, pleasurable gulps of Monet’s ethereal (5 points!) property, I—a believer in avoiding gift shops at all costs, for they more little more to me than overpriced circuses full of knicks and knacks that will only end up in a box that I will feel guilty at even the thought of throwing away, so they take up space in a closet, accumulating dust from years and years of not throwing a stupid Mt. Rushmore magnet away—stopped inside the Monet gift shop.

I cringe when I admit that it was wonderful.

BUT IT REALLY WAS. They had lovely Monet prints and an item that intrigued me so that I couldn’t reach into my under-the-pants money protector fast enough: seeds from actual flowers in Monet’s garden. This is no stupid key chain or printed shot glass; THIS IS AMAZING.

So I bought them. And I gifted them to my mom when I got home, four packets of four different kinds of seeds for a mix of four different colors of flowers. And this summer we planted them.

I care for these seedlings so very much, watering them every day on our protected front porch, encouraging them to someday bloom. Oh baby.

Anyway, as it was raining this weekend, I took them out a little farther to see what it was like to be watered by the Heavens. I think they loved it.

My mom and I also took a trip to a wonderful garden store and went crazy buying herbs. We had originally planned to buy just Rosemary and Thyme—to bring my nose back, again, to Provence, where stopping on the side of the road on a hot, dry day and taking a whiff of the shrubs proved that all is probably okay with the world because Rosemary and Thyme grow in the ditches in France.

But we also fell in love with Mint, Spearmint, Cinnamon Basil, and Chamomile. Six herbs.

I wasted no time (for all of you who made the joke “I wasted no thyme,” and giggled to yourselves, shame on you) putting the herbs to good use.  Along with some now herb-infused spaghetti, I also made tea with the fresh Spearmint and Chamomile. D-lish.

And along with power-cleaning our deck, reading part of the Pray section of Eat, Pray, Love, and acting once again as my parent’s live-in Tech Support, that was my weekend.

Friday, June 4, 2010

5 Points for "Swanky"

A while ago, my roommate said, while talking about me, “Muh…my name is Brian and I love to confuse people with my extensive vocabulary. Muh muh muh.”  What irked me was that he said it in a mocking tone. A bad thing to use many different words?  What? Huh? Come again? Say what? ¿QuĂ©?  Excuse me? 

You know what, I run in the face of my roommates tone.  I say, “You don’t like my words? You don’t like my words? Well, YOU SUCK.”

I may have a larger "vocab" (that's what the kids call it) than some, but I’m still not satisfied with all of my word choices. I can't say no to word-crack. I get the munchies for interesting wordy-turdies.

While reading wonderful blogs like No Telling and perusing through Eat, Pray, Love, which I’m currently doing (quick book review: Lovely and funny, I’m in the first third of the book, and I’ve never wanted to eat more.  There’s no telling what urges I’ll have for the next two. Some say it's a chick book.  Written by a woman, yes; talking about things like love, eating for pleasure, and the occasional flower, yes. A chick book? No. Anyway…), I find more and more wonderful, colorful, shiny words used so eloquently in these texts that I could puke all over them.
So I made a list when I started writing on this blog called Words and Phrases I Need to Use More. Some items were “Smattering,” “Persnickety,” “Dastardly,” and “I like the cut of your jib.”  Some I have used, some I haven’t.

New incentive:  Five points for every fancy word I use in the following posts.  I’ve put a sidebar of all these words on this page. In the future, maybe I’ll construct some sort of tally system.

Word and phrase suggestions are welcome.


Here is the list of words and how many times I used them before I stopped. 115 points earned, with each word used at least once. Not bad.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Many a-thing a-happenin' a-today...

Any day when I’ve taken enough pictures of lovely things to share multiple stories is a day I can consider “seized” in my book. announced the hourly forecast from 8am to 8pm was either 75 degrees or 76 degrees, so I met with one of my favorite people to go for a walk in Riverside Park. Having arrived early at our meeting place at Jules, one of my favorite coffee houses in La Crosse, I sauntered over to the connected used bookstore to pass the time. In something that I think would qualify as a nook or a cranny, I found a bright green chair. 
[I’ve seen chairs of the same shape and style, but they’ve always been a lame gray-pink color or something. If this doesn't amaze you, probably you’re just a bit saner than I am.]

When I re-entered Jules and sat down in a booth, I found an old man sleeping across the room. I snuck a picture under the table.
[Ironic that he's sleeping thirty feet from a counter behind which all the caffeine he could ever need sits.] 

My friend and I then had a wonderful time walking through Riverside Park, and I found a dapper old man on a bench.
 [A top hat, huh?  Good for you, gramps.]

And then I came home, and made a delicious pasta dish with asparagus and bacon and other yummy stuff, and served it decadently on a paper plate because our dishwasher is temporarily broken and we don’t want to hand wash our real dishes. (Yeah, we’re really roughing it right now.)

[It was delicious.]

….aaand that’s my day.  The second day of a summer full of Popcorn Dayness. I suggest you all do something blogworthy—something you can take pictures and tell people about—at least once this week.  It’s working for me so far.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Day of Popcorn Dayness

I set out today fervent on doing something blogworthy. Yesterday's post released in me a drive to do something blogworthy every day this summer, and gall darnit, I'm gunna.

One of my favorite memories from my Europe trip last summer was walking through lavender fields in the Provence region of France. Every whiff of lavender that comes near me since then has brought me right back to that lavender farm, when all was right with the world, my nostrils happily burning with a day-long scent of that warm, purple plant. 
In the midst of the 24-hour pity party I had yesterday, I smelled lavender drifting in from my window. Strange, given that no one around us grows lavender. I'm going to buy some lavender plants tomorrow, I decided.

And here we are, 12:14 on a Wednesday afternoon, and I just bought two wonderful pots of lavender. It requires full sunlight, so the first I moved to a nicer pot and planted on my deck, and the second right outside my bedroom window.

Yum. A summer full of Popcorn Dayness, here I come!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Empty-Filled Summer Beginning

Having pretty successfully (if I may say so myself) finished off the final exams of my Junior year of college, I am now back in La Crosse.

I must say for the first time it’s felt quite strange to be back here. I mean, I’ve done some pretty fun things so far: learned how to brew southern sweet tea, finished the Harry Potter series I started at Christmas, made a pretty fantastic compost bin for my parents made from recycled shipping pallets, and a few more things. But I’ve also done boring stuff like look for a job, try desperately to sell more of my CDs (, if you really want to make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile), and answer questions from others and myself that have the overarching theme of What-The-Hell-Are-You-Going-To-Do-In-Twelve-Months-When-You’re-Done-With-College? To be quite honest, I feel as though I have lots of possibilities for a post-college career, all of which I can’t pursue until I get back to school in the fall. Unfortunately, the continue to nag me, now in the first day of June, with three months of potential nothingness ahead of me.

Remember last summer? Where is that magic? Where is the Emerson Merrick I-Appreciate-Everything-So-Deeply-I’m-Willing-To-Sob-While-Looking-At-A-Bowl-Of-Tomatos-I-Planted-Myself Popcorn Day happiness that was woven through every post of this blog just a year ago?  Where are all the zany dreams? Last night I dreamed that it was the night before Christmas and I hadn’t gotten anyone in my family a gift yet. I can’t make a witty collage out of construction paper from that!
I see no reason or excuse of why it’s not happening so far, on my second week of my last free summer vacation.  I need to start to do blog-worthy things again, and quick.