T.O.

There were reports this morning that Terrell Owens, the famously mercurial wide receiver for the Cowboys, attempted suicide.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Just like Hunter S. Thompson or Vincent Foster, huh?”

T.O. has been outspoken in the past, and I’ve always had a hunch that he just may be enough of a narcissistic publicity hound to spill the beans on the fact that the NFL is the 2006 version of Huxley’s Centrifugal Bumble Puppy–Satanic mind control foisted on the masses by the New World Order. Perfect candidate for a “suicide.” Don’t get me wrong, Owens is the starting wide receiver on my fantasy team. He’s a tremendous talent (I’m sure the State Department already has a tasty gene sample of his for “further study”). And if I’m going to have to play with the rest of you morons in the sick psychological lab that is the USA, well, I’m going to make some scratch.

But it turns out that Owens wasn’t suicided this time. In fact, he just held a press conference in Dallas where he denied “the rumors” that he gobbled 35 designer pain pills. He attributed the 911 call by his publicist to a “misunderstanding” and he characterized the notion that he would kill himself as “absurd.” Hilarious! Dallas’ finest (of course this went down in Dallas!) must have brought him back into line.

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Corn Palace

Sorry, it’s been awhile.

Last week, I was nearly out of commission after “Night of 100 Laughs” at the 400 Bar. It was an amazing show. My pal Ross Brockley guaranteed 100 laughs or your money back, and he had to fudge the count a little (only 69 actual laughs), but he gave the audience some great information about corn as an alien plant, an alternative view of Christianity (“I mean, at the end of the day, isn’t it about being tortured and humiliated in front of your friends”), and tips on how to survive an attack from either nuclear (eat miso soup) or biological (magic mushrooms) weapons. So 69 spoonfulls of sugar to help the medicine go down.

This weekend, I was in South Dakota for the Tapes n Tapes wedding. We showed up late for the ceremony because we stopped in Worthington for The Great Gobbler Gallop. Evidently this turkey race between the local bird, Paycheck (“nothing goes faster than a paycheck”), and a Texan Turkey, Ruby Begonia. The race has been going on for 33 years, and Paycheck has won 19 times. I laid heavy action on the hometown hero only to see Paycheck got completely smoked (is that in poor taste?) by a full minute. On the radio afterwards, they broke the race down and speculated as to what went wrong. Evidently, there’s a re-match in a month in Texas. Anyway, the wedding was beautiful the bride was fun…yada, yada, yada, but the most interesting thing about South Dakota happened yesterday, on Sunday afternoon. We stopped in a local Pub & Grille (what if the “e” was attached to “Pub” too? Then it would be Pube & Grille, right?) to watch the Vikings game.

South Dakota doesn’t have any professional sports teams, so the pube had the NFL ticket going. With all the different jerseys, the place had a lawless, ragtag, Wild West thing going. There was a Giants fan sitting with his San Fran 49ers-jersey wearing father, across a table from an Eagles fan; they were all watching the NY-Philly game. And a San Diego fan was watching the Chargers game. There were some Vikings fans at the bar, watching Minnesota-Carolina (a couple of them were locals wearing “Greenway” purple jersesy. Evidently Chad Greenway, the University of Iowa rookie linebacker that tore his ACL in the first pre-season game grew up in Mt. Vernon, S.D., a few miles away). And a bunch of Cheeseheads were dominating the big screen in the back. Towards the end of the Vikings game, a latino man wearing a Raiders jersey came in with a white woman wearing a Broncos jersey. That kind of interracial dating would never happen in a real NFL city.

Jerry Seinfeld famously said we’re all “just rooting for laundry” when it comes to sports anyway, but there was something disconcerting about sitting in the middle of all those different colored jerseys, watching satellite feeds from around the country. Something rootless and new world order about it all. These people are loyal to nobody really. Unconnected to any community. Dangerous.

Kaufman-esque

I went to the Guthrie last night to see Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing.” My third time there. First time seeing a play on the red red proscenium stage. Definitely more my vibe than the thrust stage–both look and material. The play was about modern love, in all its forms, and it was a play-within-a-play, Charlie Kaufman-style. In fact, after the play, we were at the 112 having dinner when somebody else at the bar asked me how the play was and I pulled the douchebag card and actually described it as “Kaufman-esque.” Seriously, if you think about it, Stoppard was the original Kaufman. The proto-Kaufman. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is Kaufman-esque if anything is. Stoppard must be a major influence.

So most of the modern stuff will be in the red red theater. Now I’m excited about Alfred Uhry’s “Edgardo Mine” coming in November.

Ran into Guthrie PR rep Melodie Bahan before the show in the Target Lounge. She was disappointed that I didn’t love the building the first time I blogged about it. I didn’t tell her that it was because I ran into my ex-girlfriend and her new 100-year-old boyfriend at the gala. But whatever. That wouldn’t have been professional. Melodie was having a crazy day. She was freaked out by the Strib story about the Guthrie spiders. She said a bunch of wackos had already called urging her to “SAVE THE GUTHRIE SPIDERS.” There are no plans to exterminate the spiders, people. Settle down.

School Supplies?

I missed out on the entire last-hipster-weekend-of-the-summer. Just think, I could have waited around smoking cigarettes in my apartment each night until I was forced to call random skinny people around 11 p.m. to half-gripe/half-ask, “God, I’m bored, is there anything going on tonight?”

Instead, I went to Staples, MN. No, not to get school supplies, smartass. Staples is the small railroad town where my daddy grew up. Officially, we were there to celebrate my cousin Eric’s secret wedding–last fall, he eloped to Madeline Island with a red-headed woman. Eric and the red-headed woman’s secret love aside, it was Labor Day Weekend, and my family went up to Staples like it does every Labor Day. Every major holiday in the summer, really. Because Staples is the home of the Marsh Family Compound. Our patriarch, Monroe Marsh, was a hunter and trapper and carpenter and live auction pack-rat. He spent every other year building God-knows-what in Greenland. He worked for the railroad for some time. But in 1953, he bought 280 acres next to the Crow Wing River, most of it the hardwood forest of Central Minnesota– prickly ash and red oak and maple broken up by white pine and popple–and clear cut a portion of it for a small farm. Red, or Monk, as he was known in greater Morrison and Cass Counties, passed on in 2000 (and if this shit isn’t too boring for you, I have a literal murder ballad to sing regarding his funeral weekend on some future blog). Anyway, each summer, Monroe’s seven children, of whom my father is the eldest, bring their offspring and their offspring’s offspring, and their offspring’s husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends and drug buddies and various and sundry hangers-on, up to the muddy banks of the Crow Wing to smoke cigarettes, drink windsor and pabst blue ribbon, fall in the campfire, bleed in Uncle Dave’s garage, sing, toke, play guitars, argue, fight, and most importantly, tell stories.

A lot of southern writers, from Faulkner to Joseph Mitchell to Howell Raines, credit the story-telling traditions of their families when explaining how they became writers. I don’t have the gift those guys do, but the reasons why I write can probably be attributed to my family and those 280 acres in Staples. They’re not southern, but they’re close enough. We even have a longrunning feud, for instance, between us and the tangentially-related family across the road from us, The Cramptons. My grandfather married Alice Crampton, my grandmother, the sister of the rival Patriarch across the road, Bob. Over the years, tension ran high between the families with duelling “NO TRESPASSING” signs and barb wire fences and an infamous incident where my grandfather aimed a rifle at my great-uncle. In fact, before he died, Grandpa Marsh donated 140 acres to the Minnesota DNR, not out of some desire for a civic legacy, or any gratitude to the state’s husbandry of our shared natural resources, rather to piss off Uncle Bob by putting a public access, the Alice B. Marsh public access, and all the empty beer cans and broken glass and trash that comes with a central Minnesotan public access, just yards from Bob’s property.

Of the remaining 140 acres, each of the seven siblings was given a 20-acre lot. A couple of them live on their land–Aunt Cindy has a trailer on the high banks, my cousin Holly is living on her daddy’s land, my Uncle Tim’s, with her boyfriend in a converted trailer/deer-hunting shack back in the woods, and the youngest sibling, Uncle Dave, was bequeathed my grandpa’s house and tool shed. Last year, he built a big garage where he runs a small inner tube rental/engine repair business.

I missed Cat Power at the Varsity on Friday, but I think the musical highight of the weekend took place in that garage. Several of my cousins are gifted musicians–they sing at all of our weddings and funerals, and play guitar around our campfires in Staples (The Eagles “Seven Bridges Road” is a perennial high-harmony highlight). Eric plays guitar in a local metal-ish band, Dayfeed, and my cousin Angie is married to the bassplayer in another local band, Ginger Jake. On Saturday, both bands combined with the rest of my singin’, pickin’ cousins, for an all-star lineup that covered an aggressive set list of 90s AOR–Weezer, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Jewel, Joan Osborne, etc.

So you’re asking: “where’s the story, you self-indulgent prairiebilly raconteur?” Here’s one, hopefully indicitive of the tenor of a holiday weekend on the compound. Late in the evening, the lead singer of Ginger Jake, the petite brunette who covered “Who Will Save Your Soul” earlier in the set, was dancing with a friend of Cousin Holly, a 6’4″ tattooed motorcyclist from Rapid City, SD, with a Road Warrior handle, “Dog.” During one of the groovier numbers, Dog drunkenly lost his balance, falling on top of the brunette; he only avoiding crushing the girl with his full weight by breaking his fall with his head, crashing his face into the polished concrete floor of Dave’s garage. He got up, dazed and bloodied, his nose crooked as a snapped basswood branch, and stumbled into the shadows. When everybody rushed out of the garage to attend to him, he told the mob to “Stay the fuck away from me!” and appeared to clutch at the buckknife strapped to his belt. Before anybody tried to forcibly disarm Dog, my Aunt Colleen screamed, “Only Cousin Danny can talk to him! Only Danny!” Danny came over and calmed Dog down, getting him to actually heel before the floodlight by the kegs, in order to get a look at his disfigured nose and the nasty gash in his forehead. Aunt Colleen cleaned him up and ushered him back to Holly’s trailer in the woods. Evidently, the next morning, Dog still didn’t know the name of his wife.