The Final 48: Enjoying the Last Days Before Dog Ownership

Again, another stock image of a goldendoodle. We're not getting this one. But, hopefully you can see why we're doing this.

In just over 48 hours, life will never be the same. Not for the next decade or so, anyway.

My girlfriend and I are going to pick up our goldendoodle from Peever, S.D. on Saturday. Meanwhile, the planner I am, I’ve been thinking through every last preparation necessary before we bring this dog into our home — dog-proofing, if you will. I’m up at night thinking about cords and expensive rugs and where to put shoes and how to quit leaving all of my clothes on the bedroom floor. I realize I’m going to miss something. Probably a lot of things.

We found ourselves at O’Donovan’s Sunday night, sitting around a table with two other couples who happened to be dog owners. We heard stories about cuddling, new tricks and adorable behaviors. We were stories about pee, poop and vomit. We talked grooming, food and expensive visits to the veterinarian. There we were, listening like young parents-to-be, warned over and over that our lives were about to change, but assured that it’s worth it.

I can’t wait.

One of my co-workers, whose Boston terrier recently took a tumble down some stairs and needed a $3,500 surgery to repair a broken leg, just the other day asked, plainly, why now? Why do you want a dog?

I told him I was ready to invest in something that would give back; something a little more engaging than new shoes or a new Apple product. I wanted something that required work and dedication — like a hobby — but also, something that relied on me, and something I could care for.

There’s no way around the fact this dog is going to change our lifestyle. The next few days, I really want to savor the things one can have or do when one doesn’t own a dog. The problem is I don’t know what those things are. I realize travel becomes a seriously complex equation with a dog in the mix. And I realize there’s going to be expenses along the way that I could never imagine. Uninterrupted sleep? Does that become a thing of the past?

Whatever. We’re ready for it. Ready as anyone can be, anyway. Last night, I spent two hours watching goldendoodle videos on YouTube. So, yeah.  All I know is whenever I imagine our dog-to-be, I hear this song:

(Note: Clearly, as evidenced by the past few weeks on The Miller Times, I’m excited to write about the pitfalls and payoffs of dog ownership. I imagine Olive/Cooper — we haven’t decided a gender yet — will take on a starring role here, so forgive me in advance.)

Two Blocks from Target Field

There's nothing better than watching a game at Target Field, but watching a Twins game from a neighboring bar ain't so bad.

One thing is true of Minneapolis in summer 2010: There’s no point in coming if you aren’t going to make it to a Minnesota Twins game.

OK, that’s not entirely true, but at least make an effort. Target Field was recently named the best stadium in North America by ESPN the Magazine if you need convincin’, but if you can’t afford to see a game — the tickets prices aren’t what they used to be at the Metrodome — try to watch the game from a neighboring downtown bar as my girlfriend and I did Friday night. My sister, Katie, and her boyfriend, Jake, were in town this past weekend for a wedding. Katie and Jake threw down $110 for two standing room tickets while Beth and I bellied up at the nearby Smalley’s 87 Club. In a word: Awesome.

There’s more to Target Field than just being at Target Field. The stadium has revitalized the downtown experience to where there’s now palpable excitement on game day, no matter if it’s April or August. Nearly every game has sold out and excited first-timers are filling the city with each home stand. Target Field is evidence of how a professional sports stadium can boost civic pride. Now, imagine if we could get a new place for the Minnesota Vikings …

Anyway, Beth and I sat outside of Smalley’s at the alley bar, where drinks were half off during the game and appetizers were just $3.99. The game was on every HDTV and each time the Twins scored or made a big out, you could hear the crowd roaring from two blocks away. After the Twins’ victory, fans filled the alleyway to watch post-game fireworks:

Another reason why it’s awesome to live in Target Field right now. The city is alive this summer, but the regular season ends in a month and a half. Have you made it to a game yet?

My Blog Suffers Inferiority Complex

Blogger Neil Pasricha has received multiple awards, dozens of write-ups and even a book deal from his blog, 1000 Awesome Things. The Miller Times is incredibly jealous.

Blog envy is a very real thing and I’m experiencing it right now.

Neil Pasricha is the author of 1000 Awesome Things, where each day, Pasricha posts — you got it — something that’s clearly awesome. Said things are random, but everyday occurrences nonetheless. For instance:

  • #946 The first shower you take after not showering for a really long time
  • #824 Finding the TV remote after looking forever
  • #736 The smell of Play-Doh

The story goes Pasricha started the blog to have a more positive daily outlook on life. Since launching in June 2008, the blog has amassed nearly 16 million hits and even landed Pasrich a book deal.

Back to my blog envy: On this particular morning, I have nothing to write about. I’m waiting to hear back from Fast Horse Inc. to see if I’m a finalist for the summer intern search. If that’s the case, I’ll have some content on this bad boy.

In the meantime, I need to find that 16-million-hit idea that warps TMT into a book deal. Because let’s be honest — in its current form, that ain’t gonna happen.

Enjoy 1000 Awesome Things, and include “Discovering blogs by the praise of other jealous bloggers” to your own list of awesome things.

Urban Agriculture Taking Off in Portland

Whether a result of the recession, increased awareness around food ethics or old fashioned environmentalism, urban agriculture is taking off across the country. That’s evident in Portland, Ore., where I’ve met several people who have taken their backyard operations to a new level.

The idea is simple: If you don’t like how food is being produced, produce it yourself. This has led many to cultivate gardens and raise farm animals in the least likely of places — urban backyards and rooftops.

I interviewed my friend, Josh Leake, who decided to construct a chicken coop just about a month ago. He’s built what some have called the best chicken coop in Portland. None of his chickens — he’s got nine of them — have matured enough to lay their first eggs, but in waiting, he’s become something of a hobby farmer.

A cool (and very urban) side note: Josh has a webcam set up inside his coop and you can view it at Kind of gives a whole new meaning to “live feed,” doesn’t it?

When Wii Were Young

Our Nintendo Wii must’ve sat idle for five months before the other day when I downloaded Super Mario World. I’ve knocked the Wii for requiring so much physical exertion, but the fact I can tap into a database of hundreds of video games from previous Nintendo systems makes it something of a time machine.

I mean, right now, somewhere in your community, there’s adults playing dodgeball. Somewhere, a father is telling his son about his little league glory days while a mother is telling her daughter that Justin Bieber’s got nothing on a young David Cassidy. It’s no secret we hold tight to our childhood convictions even decades after we should’ve grown out of them.

I don’t like to use the word “nostalgia,” because it seems to belittle and bemoan a very practical want for the simple joys we had as kids. Let me just say my latest foray into Super Mario World has been just as delightful as the first go-round, but sadly, just as hard. I’ve been stuck in the Forest of Illusion for a week now. (The irony is not lost on me.)

Video games were an important part of my childhood. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was the youngest boy. Most of the other boys were at least two or three years older. It’s a miracle I ever stuck with sports after all those backyard games of 5-on-1 softball and tackle football games where I thought I might dislocate my face. These memories explain why I was better at defense in softball and played offensive line in varsity football.

It was video games that leveled the playing field on Gibson Avenue. My lack of size and strength didn’t matter holding that Super Nintendo controller, so when it came time to play Street Fighter II, that’s where I got my revenge.

Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to earn my current paycheck as a kid in grade school, with no bills or reasons to save. I would blow the money on Super Nintendo games, baseball cards, Lemonheads, Garth Brooks cassette tapes, the latest pair of Air Jordans, a Schwinn to replace my lame-ass Huffy. I’d take my family to Valentino’s all-you-can-eat Italian buffett. I’d buy batting gloves for little league baseball, but also for my Super Nintendo, so my chunky little hands wouldn’t slip off the controller after hours of gaming.

Instead, it’s rent, my car lease and car insurance. It’s cable and Internet, my cell phone bill and US Bank for that $40K they loaned me for college. It’s groceries and toiletries. Now and then, it’s a meal out or a movie or a T-shirt.

It was just eight dollars to download Super Mario World on my Nintendo Wii, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most fulfilling purchases I’ve made in awhile. (Second only to the driving range balls I’ve purchased to see my girlfriend experiment with golf.)

As we get older, there’s this movement toward more dignified activity as what should find fulfilling as an adult. I’m not interested in seeing plays or spending $100 on dinner or hiking. Nonsense. I’m a big nerd and I always will be. (I mean, I blog, after all.) Playing Super Mario World isn’t just enjoyable because it triggers pleasant memories from my childhood. Hopping on Yoshi and stomping on Koopas and Goombas is just as fun now as it was back in 1993.

I spent plenty of Friday nights at home a a kid, cooped up in my upstair bedroom, plowing through the latest Super Nintendo game I was renting. Sixteen years later, as grey hairs are starting to multiply and 60 Minutes has become a highlight of my week,  I plan on spending my Friday night with a mouth full of Lemonheads, sipping Diet Mountain Dew while in hot pursuit of Bowser.

Episode 2 – The Power of PHAME

Ben Landsverk, choir director for PHAME, works with a student in preparation for their upcoming show, Once Upon a Mattress.

Last Saturday, I attended a rehearsal for the Pacific Handicapped Artists, Musicians and Entertainers (PHAME) in preparation for their upcoming performance of the musical Once Upon a Mattress.

While PHAME students were busy executing lines, learning choreography and hitting the high notes, I had a chance to learn more about the organization. These performers are dedicated, hardworking and focused. In PHAME, they’ve found a place to learn and grow in the performing arts:

Once Upon a Mattress opens Saturday, June 12 at Portland Community College.

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The Spill Canvas: Here’s to the Home Team


Sioux Falls' The Spill Canvas is (from left) Dan Ludeman, Joe Beck, Nick Thomas and Landon Heil


Sioux Falls, South Dakota is hardly a hotbed for upcoming rock bands. Not for lack of effort, but it’s a community which fails to support young talent, be it musical, athletic or otherwise.

In fact, it wasn’t so long ago the mother of a highly recruited basketball player from Sioux Falls told the local newspaper, “We tend to eat our young.” It’s true. Whenever someone from Sioux Falls shows promise, the skeptics and cynics come out in droves.

The Spill Canvas somehow emerged from Sioux Falls as an altnernative band with major breakthrough potential. The four members — with whom I went to high school — dabbled in other bands before hopping aboard lead singer Nick Thomas’ pet project. The Spill Canvas, in a span of a few years, grew from Thomas’ coffee house solo set to a viable mainstream act with TRL appearances to boot.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I’ve known Thomas since we were pee-wee football teammates and bassist Landon Heil and I go back to games of NBA Jam in his basement during grade school. I never really knew guitarist Dan Ludeman, who was a year older, but I knew Joe Beck as the kid who dominated talent shows and pep rallies with his drum solos. Does they make me a homer? Absolutely.

But you can also consider me among one of the original skeptics. Not for lack of faith, but before The Spill Canvas, Sioux Falls had never seen a local band go from talent-show stages to having their one-story mugs plastered on MTV Studios in Times Square. I root for underdogs, but I never actually bet on them.

The Spill Canvas is the exception.

I met up with the guys after their show Tuesday night at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, Ore. and discussed the future of the band with drummer Joe Beck. Here’s what you need to know from our conversation:

They make themselves available. Thanks to strong social media savvy, The Spill Canvas are accessible by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. They’re posting photos on Twitter on a daily basis, along with giving away tickets to their shows. YouTube has been something of a TSC News Network — if there’s a big announcement, the guys take to their trusty digital camcorder and post it online. They are connected to their growing fan base.

This ain’t your typical follow-up album. In fact, said follow-up album is a mythical thing at the moment. They’ve released two EPs — Abnormalities and Realities — in the past four months. Beck says their label, Warner Brothers, has gotten behind the smaller releases in a way that models the music industry in the 1940s and 1950s: Cut a few songs, take them on tour. Cut a few more songs, keep touring. These aren’t scraps and B-sides, either. The two EPs have been some of their best work as a band and tracks like “Our Song,” “Gateway Drug” and “Dust Storm” sounded exquisite live.

Being from Sioux Falls is good and bad. Beck acknowledged there was heavy eye-rolling a few years back when they band left Sioux Falls to better pursue their dreams. However, he points being established in Sioux Falls, SD is much more original than Los Angeles or Brooklyn. The band is proud to call Sioux Falls home. In fact, three of four members spent the past year and change in Sioux Falls while resting from touring and recording. (Beck lives in Nashville, Tenn. where his girlfriend is set to graduate from Belmont University.)

Fame hasn’t gone to their heads. The band has been touring together for almost six years, so pardon them if post-concert antics are kept to a minimum. After the show back at the Doug Fir Lounge, we stand around a fire pit and talk up-and-coming bands and artists. It’s a sedate conversation with a group of guys who look more like they survived another eight-hour shift at their work-a-day job. Then you remember they’re major label recording artists headlining a national tour. In a few months, they’ll be playing with the Goo Goo Dolls and Switchfoot. For all intents and purposes, these are the biggest celebrities I know and they couldn’t be more unassuming.

Most fans probably feel like they went to high school with a band like The Spill Canvas. I’m proud to say I did. They’ve quickly become one of my favorite bands, regardless of personal association. Beyond their music, I respect their hustle. They are a success story who come from a place where there’s all too few.