I have this problem, and I’m not sure at what point in my life it developed.
My challenge is this: I may have words clearly and concisely formulated in my head. However, somewhere between my brain and my lips, data is occasionally lost or jumbled.
This problem manifested itself during a recent job orientation session.
I was at a table of young women, one of whom I would have rather liked to impress. She was beautiful, nice and spirited.
Here is the sentence I had assembled in my head. It was hardly clever, but was intended to build some camaraderie between us.
It went like this: “If I start to fall asleep, please hit me. It’s going to happen, and I want to stay awake.”
Sounds elementary, doesn’t it?
Well, I managed to flub it pretty badly.
Here’s what came out: “If I fart …”
I did my best to regroup and recover, quickly bouncing back with what I had intended to say. It happened so fast that I’m not even sure she caught the flash of unintended comedic relief.
However, my confidence level rapidly dropped a few notches, and I decided that perhaps on this morning it was better to sit in silence lest another verbal calamity reverberate through my lips with more tragic results.
Time has been a great healer in this matter, though, and I must say that my perspective has shifted.
Had I said, “If I fart, please hit me. It’s going to happen, so be ready for it …” — well, I’m pretty sure that would have made an impression. Sure, it may have been greeted with a stink eye and a shake of disapproval, but I think the chances are better that it would have been met with shock and laughter. And what an elixir laughter can be …
So feel free to fart — I mean, start — using that line as an icebreaker, my friends.
I would be delighted if my verbal malfunction had the fun result of unleashing some “laughing gas” upon this world.

* As a bonus, dear readers, let me offer you this link to an appropriately-themed (considering the subject matter of this post) but vaguely NSFW painting by the wonderful Lilli Hill. It’s guaranteed to generate shock and laughter. Please take a moment to consume this elixir. Click here.

It’s been a month, and I’m finally just going to accept the truth.
You like me. For me. And because I’m just me.
I was worried that you wouldn’t — or that you would come to realize that you didn’t.
It was actually one of the scariest things about leaving the newspaper and my job as a journalist.
My persona had become so intertwined with what I did that I wasn’t sure people would care to talk with me when I no longer did it. After all, my job allowed me to be on the front lines of whatever subject was attracting the community’s attention. I was speaking with the those involved, present at major events and often had behind-the-scenes observations. It was easy to find something going on that people were interested in knowing more about and to spark a conversation.
While I still get to be a part of a lot of interesting things at the hospital where I’m now the communications coordinator, it’s a much more specialized field.
I’ve been relieved to find that my (perhaps somewhat exaggerated and silly) fears have not been realized. People do still like me and want to talk with me, even though I don’t have the latest scoop on what is going on in Yankton.
In fact, I’ve had such an outpouring of well wishes, support and kindness during the last couple months that I’ve had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream. Friends and acquaintances have expressed a confidence in me and an appreciation for my work that I could only hope existed but certainly didn’t expect. Those conversations and written exchanges have meant a lot to me, and I can’t thank those involved with them enough for their encouragement.
I am happy to report as I start week five that my new job is going well, and I have no regrets about my decision to take a new career path.
Sure, I miss my daily interactions with old coworkers and sources, but the hospital is a very positive environment. I have the pleasure of working with many kind and talented people. My new employers and coworkers have been patient with me as I learn new skills and processes. I look forward to going into the office every day.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for every kind word. Thank you for your support. Thank you for filling my life with so much joy and warmth.
With any luck, I’ll be talking with you soon. :)


“We Rose From Mud, From Muck, From Yoke” was inspired by the above painting by Susan Siegel called “In Pink.” To learn more about the artist, visit http://susanlsiegel.com/.

We locked hands and stood alone as chaos obliterated our prairie home.
It was to you I looked for a pattern, a peace to call my own.
The fields they shook, and the men crawled near.
The golden sky darkened, and they ripped up the roots that we had shared.
I know how you look tonight, pink and statuesque and full of might —
It won’t last. It can’t. And that fills me with dread.
Order is made to be overturned — we know that better than anyone.
We rose from mud, from muck and the yoke.
Now they’re back to claim us again, and there’s no place to go.
We succeeded where they had failed. We cultivated life and lived it, too.
We remained close to our beginnings, because we saw how distance encouraged fear.
Of course, our caution was a noble affair.
But it was naive and nothing compared to the world out there.
This is where we begin sinking, begin drowning in our grave.
And if I may, I’d like to kiss you now before the bottom drops out.
We’ll be returned to the mud, the muck and the yoke.
But our souls will be clean and our spirits will wander.
I will listen for your call as their loud curses sour the silence.
I will love you forever with an ache and a longing for your kindness.

I’m often critical of Sioux Falls.

Although I admittedly spend very little time there these days, it’s always struck me as a bland suburbia with no emotional weight, grit or real identity. It is the outlet mall of small cities — a collection of brand names signifying nothing.

Is that unfair?

I can’t say with any certainty. I simply do not spend enough time exploring its crevices for signs of the kind of life that excites me.

But I will say this, the residents of Sioux Falls gave Future Islands and the Operators the kind of enthusiastic welcome that makes you proud to be associated with the city’s fandom.

I don’t go to shows in Sioux Falls on a regular basis, but I’ve been told that Sioux Falls crowds have been going the extra mile to make bands feel at home — the recent Jason Isbell concert was an example of that, I was informed.

I just know that I saw it firsthand Monday at the very cool and stylish Icon Lounge.

The Operators are a very new band that most prominently features Dan Boeckner of bands such as Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits. They have a synth-heavy new wave sound that tends to tickle my funny bone in a wonderful way.

The band informed the crowd early on that they were having a rough day, in part because of some equipment failures.

As they soldiered into their set, the Operators were clearly taken aback by the gusto of the crowd, which was cheering them on as if they were the main act. It was a warm and impressive display, and the band ended their set with a thank you to the crowd for turning their day around.

“This is just what we needed,” keyboardist — and, according to one press report, “enigmatic Macedonian electronics whiz” — Devojka said.

Now let’s rewind.

Shortly after arriving at the venue, I noticed the Future Islands lead singer, Samuel T. Herring, walking among the crowd.

Through performances and interviews, I had the impression that Sam is a very nice, sincere guy who appreciates his fans. Without really thinking, I called out his name and he politely began to speak with me about the tour, Baltimore and our shared love of film director Matthew Porterfield. I’ve become a huge fan of Sam during the last six months, and it was a genuine pleasure to have a relaxed, five-minute conversation with him.

I first remember hearing Future Islands on the “Sound Opinions” podcast perhaps a year or so ago.

“The Great Fire” became a favorite song of mine (which Future Islands did play in Sioux Falls!).

When “Seasons (Waiting On You)” was released in advance of the album “Singles,” I went from being a casual Future Islands fan to a devoted one.

The “Late Show with David Letterman” performance sealed it.

Sam brought everything you see in that clip and more to Sioux Falls Monday.

His intense, theatrical performance places him among the best front men (or women) I’ve ever witnessed and made the concert one for the history books.

I’ve heard people (including a gentleman at the Icon Lounge) describe Sam’s dancing as terrible. I disagree. I find it unique, physical, emotional and really endearing. Like David Letterman said after the Future Islands performance: “I’ll take all of that you’ve got.”

This is the rather shoddy cell phone video I got of the song “Balance” at Monday’s show. (I was pretending to not be filming, because I didn’t want to be one of those guys). It’s got a lot of Sam’s trademark moves for your enjoyment.

I will note here that a strange thing happened prior to the show.

I was standing at the front of the venue after the Operators and noticed some people were giving me strange looks. I did my best to ignore it.

However, one of them approached me and asked, “Are you the lead singer of Future Islands? We were just looking at a picture of him, and you look like him.”

“Uh, no.”

“Are you lying to me? Are you maybe his brother then?”

“I don’t have any Herring blood in me that I’m aware of.”

“So you’re not going to climb out of the crowd and onto the stage?”

“No, that’s not among my plans for the evening.”

The stranger — Ezra, I later learned — eventually accepted my denial, and we had a nice conversation about our favorite bands.

As far as the issue at hand, I happen to think Sam is a handsome fellow and maybe I can see myself passing as his brother. However, I don’t quite understand how I could be in the least bit confused with the man himself.

FutureIslands_2415Yes, that’s Sam is in the middle.

It’s not me.

I know that’s hard to believe.

But I’m telling the truth.



Balance (Love And Loss)

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Fiction
Tags: ,

“Lovers” by Milan Hrnjazović. Find out more about the artist at http://www.hrnjazovic-milan.com.

It’s Sunday, and I won’t see you.
I say the words again.
Even though I don’t want to believe them.
“I miss you.”

Yes, I miss your subtle scent.
And, yes, I miss your fervent kiss.
Of course, I miss your gentle hands.
I miss the way you lifted me in the darkness.

In the end, you won.
I didn’t have a next move.
I had thought we’d play as a team.
But that was before I really understood you.

I can’t blame you, even though I’ve tried.
You had burdens that I’ll never know.
Still, you were stronger than most people.
At the same time, you were more fragile, too.

I couldn’t figure out what you needed from me. I couldn’t find the balance.

You were acid in my mouth.
You were fire in my heart.
You were nails in my stomach.

You were the soul of my song.
You were the warmth of my tears.
You were the distance disappearing.

I walk these halls where you still glow.
It’s so strange to think you were happiest here.
This is where your heart felt healed.
I guess I don’t want to let that go.

I’ll wander with hope it will heal me, as well.
Little by little, maybe a tunnel will appear.
And if it does, I’ll want to believe it’s you.
Maybe you’ve found happiness, and you’ll want that for me, too.

Matt-Cox-Record-CoverA structure as consequential as the Gavins Point Dam deserves its own song.
After all, it is the final gatekeeper of the Missouri River. And, as we saw in 2011, it wields a lot of influence over all those who live along the river below it.
Perhaps those powerful images of water raging through the dam during that Missouri River flood of a couple years ago are what inspired Omaha Americana/country artist Matt Cox to write a song called “Gavin’s Point Dam.” (Geek note: I know from many years of writing about it that Gavins Point Dam has no apostrophe in its name. I’m not sure if Cox included one for artistic reasons, but I get an involuntary tic to hit the “delete” button when I attempt to follow suit.)
Instead of sticking to history, Cox seems to imagine a world wherein the dam didn’t hold and unleashed the power of the Missouri River across the heartland.
It’s a thoughtful and well-composed song, and a must-listen for those of us who know and respect the Gavins Point Dam.
HearNebraska debuted the recorded version of the song this week and writer Chance Solem-Pfeifer stated:

“Gavin’s Point Dam” doesn’t start small — a deluge of muddy water wipes out a dam.
But it does grow. After Matt Cox’s song chronicles the soaking of Midwestern flood-planes, it presses beyond just water into various social onslaughts. The song sees social security failing, politicians floundering. The breaking of Gavins Point Dam was, perhaps, the proverbial last straw for humanity.

The song will appear on Cox’s album “Nishnabotna,” which will be released Aug. 8. Curious what Nishnabotna refers to? I was unaware that the Nishnabotna River is a tributary of the Missouri River in southwestern Iowa, northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska. According to Wikipedia, Nishnabotna is an Otoe (Chiwere) word meaning “canoe-making river.”

Here are a couple of Cox’s live performances of “Gavin’s Point Dam”:

I admit it: I often enjoy toilet humor.

However, why a couple people in this area decided to combine the Fourth of July, outhouses and President Barack Obama has me a bit baffled.

When did everyone with an outhouse decide that they need to put the president in it?

The Fourth of July parade float in Norfolk, Neb., has garnered a lot of attention this weekend. It featured an outhouse with “Obama Presidential Library” written on it, along with a creepy-looking, freaked out President Obama dummy.

Here’s the photo many news sites have featured:


As I was traveling home from a family gathering Saturday, I passed through Bridgewater, S.D. Along the highway through the town, there is an outhouse. When I passed it, I looked over and saw President Obama staring back at me. It caught me by surprise, and I wondered if I actually saw it. My parents were coming through Bridgewater today, so I asked my mom to take a picture of the outhouse just to make sure it was real.

Sure enough, it was:


This outhouse with a President Barack Obama dummy sits along the north side of SD Highway 262 in Bridgewater, S.D. The photo was taken July 6, 2014.

Even as someone who has political disagreements with the president, I find this “humor” disconcerting. It gives me chills, and that’s probably because I can’t shake the feeling that there is a strain of racism associated with it. I know the people who find it funny will vehemently deny that, but given the larger picture of what this president has had to endure — continuing questions about his birth place or the accusations that he is a Muslim and perhaps even a terrorist, as well as outright racist attacks — I think it is naive to believe racism does not play a role.

Matthew Whitaker addressed a strange phenomenon on CNN while discussing an anti-Obama protest last year in Arizona:

One of the most disturbing aspects of the anti-Obama protest was the inclination of some participants to fault the president for increased racial tensions. “We have gone back so many years,” Judy Burris told the Republic, insisting that Obama’s presence and policies have engendered a racist backlash. “He’s divided all the races. I hate him for that.”

This mind-bending perspective has become one of the leitmotifs of the racialized anti-Obama movement, which laments regressive race relations, but which attributes increased racial tensions in Obama’s “disruptive” and “exotic” presence, rather than their own racial stereotypes, hateful rhetoric and divisive behavior. Despite myriad efforts to foster civil dialogue in Arizona, the state has proven to be fertile ground for the kind of chauvinistic crusading that greeted Obama this week.

This also reminded me of a 2011 study called “Whites See Racism As A Zero-Sum Game They Are Now Losing.” Its findings were rather amazing and demonstrated just how threatening some Americans view the changing demographics of the nation. Political Blind Spot described the results:

Their findings claim that self-described white Americans believe they have “replaced blacks” as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.

The authors say that their study highlights how the expectations of a “post-racial” society, predicted or imagined in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency, has far from been achieved.

The study finds that while both Caucasian and African Americans agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased. Moreover, the study finds that the majority of Caucasians believe that anti-white racism is a “bigger problem” than what African Americans face.

For those who argue that these displays are nothing more than political cartoons, perhaps I missed this meme all the years we had white presidents?

I guess Nebraska and South Dakota don’t have the “presidential outhouse” market cornered. Similar displays have been reported on in New Mexico and Montana.

Despite the latest craze, I’m going to stick with toilet humor involving bodily parts and functions. That’s how it was originally conceived, and I believe it is best left that way. Keep politics out of it, please.