Showing posts from 2007

Michael Johnson Concert

I went to see Michael Johnson in concert at the Pioneer Place on Fifth last night -- what a thrill! I remember seeing him for the first time in the Stewart Hall Auditorium back in the mid 80s and sitting a mile away, last night I was in the front row.

He hasn't lost a thing, although his voice was a little weak at times, but that's understandable seeing as he just had quadruple bypass surgery only 4 1/2 months ago. His guitar playing, on the other hand, is still up to snuff, in fact it's beyond snuff, he's one of the best guitarists I've ever seen.

He played an Irving Berlin song that I simply must learn, but I forgot the title (grrr!). Berlin wrote it for the woman he loved, but back in those days it was unthinkable for a Jewish man to marry a Catholic woman. It's something like "That'll Do" or "It'll Have To Do," I just can't remember -- I even asked him after the concert, but it was gone by the time I got home. Sometimes it…

Dakota Xmas Show

It took us 2-1/2 hours to get to downtown Minneapolis last night for our gig at the Dakota Jazz Club. As usual, Jeff & I meet at the Clearwater Travel Plaza and travel the rest of the way together. When we were about a mile and a half from the Hasty, MN exit traffic slowed down to 5 mph. We crawled along, looking at all the four-wheel drive vehicles in the ditch (those people are idiots, they think because they have four-wheel drive that they can drive normally when there's 2 inches of snow on the ground) with a plan: we'd take the Hasty exit (I know, I know) and take as many back roads as we could. We must have passed 100 cars or more!

We rolled into downtown Minneapolis, late for a meeting we were going to have with a guy who wants to rep my coffee in the twin cities (keep your fingers crossed), but on time for our gig. We played from 7 until 11 pm... and made $100. That fits in perfectly with what we call the "Engholm Corollary" (yes, we know it's not

Cats of My Life

The new addition of Frank to my life has given me a chance to think back on the cats I've had in my life. I never thought I'd be a cat owner... well, that's not true, I thought I would probably, eventually own a cat, but I didn't know when that might happen.

I wish I could remember the exact year… it had to have been around 1990 that Tristram came into my life. I was musical director for the dreaded boy orphan musical, Oliver, in Elk River, MN, I was living with Kim. One night, I needed a rehearsal pianist to fill in for a night, so I asked my friend Linda to help out (that woman could sight-read a Chinese newspaper), I offered to drive here there and back and stopped by as she was just finishing up doing the dishes. She asked me to make myself at home, I sat down and this little gray streak darted out of the living room onto my lap. There sat a stripey gray kitten, only a few weeks old, he rolled onto his back, looked into my eyes and started purring.

It's an o…

New Kitty!!

Here's my new baby! I picked him up today at the Tri-County Humane Society. He's 4-1/2 months old and very friendly.

I know I said I wanted an older orange cat, but he kind of picked me. The minute I took him out of the cage for a "test drive" he started purring and butted his head into my beard. That did it. Tristram used to do that.

He's got blue eyes, so he has some Siamese in him, and a pink nose. He's cream colored with orange on his ears, tail and the backside of his rear legs. He'll need to be neutered in February.

I brought him into the house and introduced him to Rusty. There was a little low meowing and a couple of hisses at first, but they were running around the house playing about an hour later.

His name is Frank, but that will probably change. I usually let my cats pick their own names. Frank does seem to fit, though. We'll see.

I'm pretty happy! This is my Xmas present to myself.

Holly Ball 2007

This was the first year the St. Cloud's Holly Ball was held somewhere other than the Holiday Inn. Aparently it got too big and they we're turning thousands away. I'm not sure what the Holly Ball is all about, a friend of mine called it the Old People Prom. All I know for sure is the St. Cloud's "Movers and Shakers" are there (I remember seeing Stearns County Prosecuting Attorney Janelle Kendal -- she's a babe!). the mayor was probably there, too. Anyway, there's a whole lot of money floating around in that room, tables go for over $2000 and there were a lot of tables!

We were hired to perform in various forms, the end of the evening featured the George Maurer Variety Group trading off sets with Bella Diva. We're a good match, GMG does 50s, 60s & 70s rock and Motown, Bella Diva, a group fronted by three women, features more 70s, 80s & 90s with a strong emphasis on disco and other high-energy dance stuff. The early part of the evening h…

Ladysmith, Wisconsin

Yesterday we traveled to Ladysmith, Wisconsin. We left Minneapolis at 8:30 am so that we could give a short performance for the students at the high school at 1 pm. There were about 400 teenagers in the auditorium and they were surprisingly well behaved, quiet, as attentive as teenagers can be and inquisitive. We took questions from the audience, and as expected, my Minnesota Vikings jacket drew some fire.

"Who's the Vikings fan?" asked one of the younger ones, "You know the Packers play the Cowboys tonight, don't you?"

"Yes, yes," I replied, "I know the Packers are better than the Vikings this year," (wild applause), "all I care about is that they beat Dallas, because I hate the Cowboys." (more wild applause).

Afterwards one of the teachers was talking to me, "Not many of these kids will come to tonight's concert. The Packers play the Cowboys tonight, so most of them will stay home to watch it."

We spent the after…

Cat Addict

I've come to the conclusion that I am addicted to cats. I have felt so empty since Callie died. I've had cats since the late 80's when I first got my dear, dear boy Tristram. This is the first time I've been without a little furry for around 20 years!

Rusty wants a cat, too. Poor little bastard has been carrying around an old boot lace like Linus van Pelt with his blanket and he follows me from room to room, or he meows mournfully as if he's looking for either Callie or Minky (she died one year ago today).

I want to get an orange male, but I don't want a kitten. Kittens go through what I call the 'tween years, which is somewhat similar to teen age years in humans. They go crazy, they git into shit they shouldn't and they're generally annoying for a month or two and I just don't want to deal with that. So I'd like to find a boy who's a year or more old. Orange boys have always been my favorite kind of cat, I've never met one who …

RIP Callie

I found my poor little sweet poot today. She's dead.

I knew she'd been sick lately, she'd lost so much weight and gotten that ratty, sick cat fur. I knew she was going and the vet would only cost me money I don't really have. I can't spend hundreds of dollars keeping a cat alive like my sister could.

I saw her the other night and she was so weak and wobbly. I told her how much I loved her and what a great cat she'd been. I told her it was okay to die. I watched her not much later gingerly walk to one of her favorite living room spaces, under the end table -- she would sleep there for hours. And that's where I found her.

She was such a sweet, sweet girl. I keep thinking about our lives together.

My girlfriend at the time, Christy, brought home a stray cat one night that turned out to be a pregnant female, Callie was one of five kittens who were born a couple of weeks later.

We kept them in the back room of our apartment, a three-season porch that you had …

Equipment Malfunction

My packaging machine started malfunctioning this week. Normal operation is as follows:
Pour roasted beans or grounds into the hopper.Set the code for the weight neededStart operationBeans or grounds flow into weigh bucketWeigh bucket stops when correct weight is reachedPlace bag under spoutPress foot-switch to open hopperOperation continues automaticallyEverything still works like it should, but the foot-switch is operating as if someone were standing on it, that means it fills and dumps, fills and dumps, fills and dumps just as fast as the machine will go.

The other day we had 25 cases of 36 to fill -- that's 900 bags. Normally one person can fill one box in about 5 minutes. The machine was working so fast that two of us had to work in tandem, one person filling, the other sealing, and we were completing boxes in about 3-1/2 minutes (our record was 2:55)!!

I had an electrician come in and look at the machine, he said it's not the foot-switch, it's probably a circuit board…

Playing Hooky From Work

I played hooky yesterday. I just didn't feel like coming to this big, dark, cement building for a change. Most people go out and do fun stuff when they play hooky, they go shopping or fishing or to see a movie. Not me, I spent the day in front of my computer playing with Illustrator & Photoshop, making web graphics and buttons. Still, it felt good.

In the last week I've spent a bunch of time on a project that could turn into something big for my business. I can't go into too many details because I promised the people involved that I wouldn't, but here's the gist.

I received samples of roasted beans from this company and my task was to match the colors so that they could see if I could work for them. It wasn't very easy and I learned something about roasting that I had never noticed before, a 10 lb. batch of beans roasts differently than a 25 lb. batch. Everything happens quicker with a small batch, that's obvious because it takes less time, but i…

Trick or Treat

My door got knocked on all of four times last night and only three of those times it was little kids in costumes (and one very cute mommy).

Next year when the group of teen-agers who aren't in costume come up to my door I am going to say, "What? Is this 'No costume-candy-give-away-day'? No, it isn't. Come
back on 'No-costume-candy-give-away day' and we'll do business then!"

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The Ruining of Stella Maris

On the shores of beautiful Lake Sagatagan, on the land owned by St. John's University in Collegeville, stands a quaint little chapel originally built around 1915 and lovingly restored around 1945. It is very small, only around 500 square feet and is made of field stone and mortar. Inside is a floor made of a locally quarried dark granite. In the center of the floor is a white, six-pointed star set in a circle of reddish stone. It is not used regularly, not officially anyway, but there is a path that circles around the lake that leads to this pretty little house of God and it has been open to the public for as long as I can remember.

When you looked at that chapel, with its uneven fieldstone walls, you could see the work and sweat that went into building it. The stones came from the surrounding fields, gathered by local farmers as they plowed in the spring, and were somehow transported across the lake where they were used by local laborers and monks to build a small testament t…

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin'

The reality of losing the Meeting Grounds in Sartell is really starting to set in this week. Tuesdays were the days that they would call and place their order and I would roast it. Yet here I sit not roasting coffee for them… or for anyone else.

I seem to do better when someone else is running the show. In the music world it's George or Jeff, they book the gigs and organize the shows, I show up, do my part, collect my pay and go and wait for the next phone call. I am horrible at pimping myself.

The world of business is weighing heavily on my shoulders these days. I know I have a great product, I know that people who drink my coffee for the first time are surprised that coffee can taste so good, but I don't know how to get out there and "sell, sell, sell!"

Today I found out that I am in a bidding war with Bernick's Pepsi to do a fund raiser for Cathedral High School. I have to outbid someone who can bury me in their deep, deep pockets. They're offering shi…

Jumpin' Punkins!

I am so doing this for Halloween!

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Amateur Jazz Night

We played in Brainerd last night for a Halloween costume dance -- a little early, if you ask me, but there you go. We were contracted by a guy named Dave, he plays the trombone a little and he sings a little, but he's not that good at either.

Jeff, Scott & I got paid to sit there and read charts of mostly jazz standards, with a few 50s rock songs thrown in. 15 couples in costume danced. My favorite costume was a young lady who was about 7 or 8 months pregnant in a form-fitting red evening gown with devil's horns. I really wanted to ask her if she got pregnant just for the costume -- that really shows some Halloween dedication!

Dave is a very amateur performer, but his heart is in the right place and he's very enthusiastic! All night he kept saying that we were "the best in the world!" and that we had played everywhere, from coast to coast. I felt a little like Shinola.

But I digress...

I really felt like a music whore last night. We played such a cheesy …

Not Really Good News

I got a call on Monday from one of my best customers telling me that she was being forced to close her doors and give up the business. The Meeting Grounds in Sartell is no more as of Tuesday last.

Certainly, this sucks for me because that store was good for around $1000 a month and kissing $12,000 goodbye is no easy thing. But I am more concerned about Joyce, the owner of that particular store.

She's a very nice lady. I always enjoyed talking "small business" with her. We were both very open and honest about how things were going, and I know she was constantly struggling to make ends meet. Yet she always managed to pay her bills and her employees. As usual, it is the business owner who is the last one to get paid and I know that was a source of hardship for her.

I'm really going to miss her.

Band Adventures: Getting Lost & Running Out of Gas

The variety band I play guitar in had a wedding gig at the Calhoun Beach Club in Minneapolis. The last time I played there was when I was in a college jazz combo back in the 1980s. It was a very nice reception, beautifully decorated with hundreds of votive candles. We even had some crashers from another reception in the same building, I guess they got tired of the DJ. The bride & groom let us quit about 15 minutes early and even tipped us.

"Cool," I thought, "I'll get home earlier than I thought," which was great because my girlfriend was waiting for me back at my house and since our time together is somewhat rare, every minute is valued.

Jeff drove, "I'm pretty sure there's an exit for Excelsior on highway 100, so if we head west we should get there." So off we went. Apparently he got a little confused because we got to France Avenue and he said, "I'm sure there's an exit for France on 100," and he turned left. I'm no…

Hemp for the Future

Recently I was listening to Science Friday on Minnesota Public Radio and heard a show titled "Fuels for the Future." It concentrated on ways to get ethanol from various sources such as corn, switch grass and even algae. Ethanol-based fuels are one possible way to lessen our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, and should be researched and developed by those of us in the US and throughout the world.

Corn is, in my opinion, just about the worst source for ethanol, even if it is the most researched. In 2007 the US farmed 92.9 million acres of corn, which is the highest it has been since the height of WWII in 1944 when we farmed 95.5 million acres. The best way to grow corn these days is with tons of nitrogen-based fertilizers, what is not used by the plant is washed away by rainfall and irrigation. A majority of that fertilizer makes it way to the Gulf of Mexico and is a direct cause of a 6-7,000 mile square zone that has formed where nothing grows, a "dead zone" …

Current Trends in Coffee & Commerce

Well, I've had some time to calm down since my last post. I still don't like the guy in Little Falls, but I'm not sweating losing a small account, despite the fact that they were the ones who called me first (that still bugs me), and as Kate put it, "At least you're not working for a bitch."

I am obviously going to have to reconsider my business plan. Originally we wanted to contact every "mom & pop" coffee shop we could and become their roaster. Unfortunately, things aren't working out like that. It seems to me that the locally-owned coffee shop is becoming more and more rare.

People sure like building new strip malls, instead of finding older buildings. American consumers like things convenient, they want to go to one place and get everything. That's why places like Wal-Mart exist. But even the people who don't want to shop there still want everything centrally located.

So we keep building places where you can shop at many stor…

Fucking Bastards!

The goddamn quilt shop I was romancing decided to go with the roaster in Little Falls. Fuck! I am so mad right now I can hardly see straight.

"They were more convenient," was the excuse.

What could be more fucking convenient than a roastery that's only three blocks away?

Linda, the lady I was working with, got removed from the project by the bitchy owner of the building, then bitchy owner of the building decided to go with that goddamn fucker from Little Falls. God, I hate that asshole and I've never even met him.

I hate this shit. I feel like I was stabbed in the fucking back and it sucks!

I want to just fucking cry. How the fuck am I supposed to make it in this goddamn business? If it isn't a fucking Caribou or Dunn Brothers going into all the fucking strip malls that keep getting built, it's that fucker from Little Falls trying to take my business away from me.

It just makes me want to fucking quit. But, of course, I can't because I owe too many peopl…

200,000 Miles!

My little 1996 Ford Aspire crossed over 200,000 miles tonight!

Every time I turn the key to start that thing I think it's going to be the last, but she continues to surprise me. One of these days she will give up the ghost, but for now she seems to be doing just fine.

I hope we make it to 240,000 miles, that's the distance to the moon.

RIP Seth Parent

Wow. I'm just stunned. Anyone who has had anything to do with community theater in St. Cloud in the past 20 years has worked in some capacity with Seth Parent. And I am sure there are many people who drive around here who saw him riding around on his custom 3-wheel motorcycle with the quarter-barrel beer kegs as gas tanks.

Seth always got the bad guy roles. Well, just look at him, the dark eyes, the goatee, the dark hair... he also had a love of medieval weaponry and a penchant for magic. He made a great bad guy. But he also had a funny, intelligent part that we all got to see in rehearsal and read in his writing.

When he wasn't acting he worked. When I first met him he was working as a skinner at the Long Prairie slaughterhouse. He had to quit when his wrists just couldn't stand the strain anymore, I don't think anyone had thought of carpel tunnel syndrome back in those days. So he left the glamorous world of the abattoir for the bindery at Quebecor. I didn…

Rah! Rah!

I had a dream last night I was in a band that was hired to play nothing but college rousers.

The lady who hired us said, "I don't care how you play 'em, but just don't fuck with Illinois!"

Performance Anxiety

I had another one of those dreams where I am in a play, but something bad happens. Usually it is being suddenly thrust upon the stage with no idea what the play is or what my lines are. This time I was "fully prepared" but was unable to get to the stage.

Here's the part I remember... I was standing on the stage with the director, who also was a member of my ex-boss' family and we were talking as the audience was just starting to trickle in. He made some comment about how some actors will work for almost nothing and I was about to make some sort of dirty joke when we both slipped and started sliding down the rather severe rake the stage had toward the orchestra pit. I remember thinking "protect your hands and wrists," because I need them to play guitar. We both fell in, it wasn't as deep as you'd expect an orchestra pit in a dream to be, I came out unscathed, but my knee had connected with his chin and he was in some pain. I helped him out of th…

SOMS Weekend

This weekend is one of the few weekends in the year that I look forward to with much anticipation: Sons of Munich! The others are Maibock and Trivia.

Sure, it's just a glorified kegger wrapped in all sorts of pomp & circumstance with a variety show in the middle, but it the best party I've ever been to. Everything about it is magical, from the land to the lake, up the hill at the Schwartzwald and down to the main gate, but it is especially about the people. This party has been happening annually for over 30 years, we call it "post doctoral" partying. Our friend Pete, who had his rookie year last year, said it best when he said, "Every party I've ever been to is a piece of shit compared to this."

The rules are simple: only those who have been attending for four years can bring anyone new (a "rookie") to the party, once you're there you don't leave - all food & drink is provided, if you see someone who needs help, help them, i…

Jimmy John's Downtown

I can't fucking believe it! Downtown St. Cloud -- specifically 5th Ave in downtown St. Cloud -- is getting another fucking sub shop! Jimmy John's is going into the former Meeting Grounds/Waldo's spot between D.B. Searle's and the Radisson.

Now if you want a sub sandwich and you're on 5th Ave you can go to Hemsing's, Milio's, Jimmy John's or Erbert's & Gerbert's, and they're all located within a block and a half of each other. The order goes like this, south to north: Hemsing's, the Electric Fetus, Milio's, Pioneer Place, D.B. Searle's, Jimmy John's, the Radisson, M&H Appliance, Erbert's & Gerbert's.

The reason this merits more than a mere eye-rolling from me is the fact that Jeff & Stacie (my business partner and his wife) looked into taking the former Meeting Grounds/Waldo's space and turning it into a locally-owned vegetarian coffee house/restaurant. The article I read today in BusinessCentral…

Leaving Myspace in Favor of Facebook

Myspace was fun for a while, but I am moving to Facebook.

With Myspace I was able to connect with some people I hadn't seen in years, but mostly I "friended" people I already knew. Most of the time, however, you run across teens who have no concept of what is and what isn't good design. There is no shortage of web sites that can help you customize your Myspace page, but it seems that most of them allow the user to add animated glitter to the background and change the colors some. Animated glitter should be banned from the internet forever! Personally I used CSS to edit my page and my blog, the design is clean and there isn't an animated GIF anywhere on my page, but the code is u-g-l-y!

Customization is about the only thing that I like about Myspace over Facebook. Facebook uses a proprietary coding language that makes it difficult, but not impossible to customize your page. All I have found so far gives you the ability to customize only parts of your Facebook p…

Long-ass Weddings

This is the second time this summer I will have had to play a wedding gig that lasts more than 6 hours. In the past we have maybe had to show up early to set up (you don't want a bunch of road-weary musicians dragging equipment through your wedding reception), but we only played for 3 or 4 hours at the end of the night. The wedding earlier this summer, and the one today, are 9 hours long.

I don't think people realize that playing a musical instrument is a physical activity and that it takes a lot out of the players. Certainly a trumpet player can't play for 9 hours without getting seriously fried by the end of the night. As a guitar player I get pretty shot after about 4 hours. My fingers start to hurt from the knuckle out to the tips and it gets harder and harder to play.

I know I shouldn't complain, as I am being more than adequately compensated, but I don't like these long-ass gigs. And to top it all off I will be in a tuxedo all fucking day. I hate wearin…