Several dozen times over the last ten years, I have dressed up like a lumberjack to entertain people.
No, I am not a hipster. My dad works at the Forest History Center, a Minnesota historical site in Grand Rapids, MN that features a 1900 logging camp, complete with a cookshack, bunkhouse and horse barn. The camp is populated by costumed interpreters who give visitors the chance to experience life in a turn-of-the-century logging camp without them having to sweat, swear or freeze their balls off.
My dad's initial job at the center was the Barn Boss (he drove horses around all day). This meant that frequently I would be called upon to put on overalls, boots and (fuck my life) suspenders. I would "volunteer" (emphasis on the quotes) my time to show the metropolitan Grand Rapids folk about the importance of avoiding Road Apples (if you don't know what they are, then tough luck because I sure as hell aren't going to give that damn spiel again). Really, for how weird I am, it's a wonder I didn't turn out a lot stranger.
You would think that after a decade, three years of college, several writing awards and the ability to legally drink that I would have outgrown my time as a Road Monkey. And yet I had barely returned for the summer before there was my dad, glint in his eye, asking me, "So what are you doing Tuesday?"
I agreed — only because I didn't have to wear suspenders. I had been asked to deliver seven 25-minute lectures to groups of fifth-grade students on "nature writing."
This quickly morphed into "nature storytelling," because it's hard to hold the attention of 11-year-olds sitting on stumps in the woods, let alone get them to write about the moss under their butts.
The next few hours proceeded pretty much as one would expect. Several children had shot up hornets' nests with various children's guns and been chased down by the enraged stinging insects. Several others discussed hunting and gutting deer in the fall. Such is the life of a Northern Minnesotan child.
The main exercise centered around the students using sensory details to tell their stories — meaning words that pertained to the five senses ("Except for women," one boy said. "They have a sixth sense." I didn't ask him what he meant).
The last group was particularly difficult. All boys, and all incapable of sitting still. One of them began peeling the bark off his stump and found a worm underneath, which he loudly broadcast to the group. I scrambled to my feet and encouraged him quickly, "Describe the worm! What color is it? What does it feel like?!"
My creative efforts didn't do much good — it was the end of the day, and they (and I) wanted to go home.
"I have a story," one chubby boy with glasses said suddenly.
I glanced at him warily. This was the same kid who had tried to climb a tree and jump from one wobbling stump to the next.
"Once my family went camping, and it rained. The thunder was so loud that it shook the lantern next to me. All the moisture stuck to the tent, so in the morning, when we ran our fingers across it, it was wet and stuck to the cloth beneath it. You could draw pictures in the water drops."
Then he promptly went back to playing with bugs.
It was a quick, intense image — but elaborated upon in a surprisingly eloquent way. I don't the kid had any idea that he had just done exactly what I had been trying to get kids to do all day — describe in detail an experience of nature that others could connect with.
It boggles my mind that this simple little event — running ones fingers over a soaked tent — is something that millions of young Americans may never get to experience.
I was an obsessive reader of the Left Behind books back in the day, so this whole "May 21 is the Rapture!" thing is quite fascinating to me. So fascinating, in fact, that I found myself doing a little research on the topic of unfulfilled prophecies. Turns out pretty much everyone has predicted the rapture at some point, including a racist pope and a psychic chicken.
I decided to create an infographic with what I learned because I'm awake tonight and had nothing else to do. Design is mine, content is from Wikipedia. If you click through and try to zoom in, it could look WAY too big. Sorry, I'm still ironing out glitches. Just go to View/Zoom Out to get a better view of it. I should have it fixed soon.
If you like it (and you're still around planet Earth tomorrow) leave a comment!
If it's still giving you grief, here's the info:
It's the end of the world as we know it... so why do I feel fine? Harold Camping's 2011 prediction is only another prophecy in a long history of them, and — believe it or not — it's one of the more rational forms of thought. From racist popes to apocalypse-predicting chickens, here are 10 other versions of the end times you might not have heard about.
April 6, 793
Beatus of Liébana
The Spanish monk Beatus of Liébana prophesied the second coming of Christ and the end of the world that day to a crowd of people. The crowd thinking that the world would end, fasted through the night. The following morning, Hordonius, one of the fasters, said, "Let's eat and drink, so that if we die at least we'll be fed."
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end following 666 years of the rise of Islam.
The Prophet Hen of Leeds
In Leeds, England in 1806 a hen began laying eggs on which the phrase "Christ is coming" written on the eggs. Eventually it was discovered to be a hoax. The hoaxster had written on the eggs in a corrosive ink so to etch the eggs, and reinserted the eggs back into the hen.
Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. The realization that the predictions were incorrect resulted in a Great Disappointment. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement. The Baha'is believe that Christ did return as Miller predicted in 1844, with the advent of The Báb, and numerous Miller-like prophetic predictions from many religions are given in William Sears book, Thief in The Night.
Dorothy Martin Martin, a housewife from Chicago claimed to have received messages from aliens via automatic writing which stated that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954.
May 5, 2000
In his book 5/5/2000 - Ice:The Ultimate Disaster, Noone predicts that the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn would align for the first time in 6000 years. This would cause a catastrophic build up of ice at the South pole leading to devastation across the planet.
May 21, 2011
Camping predicted that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011 with God taking approximately 3% of the world's populations (200 million people) into Heaven. The actual end of the world is predicted to occur five months later.
Sir Isaac Newton
Newton proposed, based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the Apocalypse could happen no earlier than 2060.
January 19, 2038
Computers that store time as a 32-bit signed integer counting the seconds since midnight, January 1, 1970 will experience issues as the number rolls over, leading computers to believe that the date is December 13, 1901, possibly culminating in severe failures.
Talmud, Orthodox Judaism According the the Talmud and mainstream Orthodox Judaism, the end of the world will be on Rosh Hashanah 6000 from creation, which according to Orthodox Judaism is the year 2240 CE. Most Orthodox Jews interpret the "six thousand year" schema to be metaphorical.
If you've been around my Facebook profile lately, you'll notice it… isn't. I'm planning on being absent for most of the summer, with the only status updates being links to blog posts, since a lot of my readership comes from Facebook.
My reason is that I waste a lot of time on Facebook. This summer, I don't have any time to waste.
Since the best laid plans by mice and men gang aft agley, I'm not quite ready to explain yet what I'm cooking up to my readers. I've got a lot of big goals and a lot of big hopes of things I want to accomplish this summer, and Facebook isn't a part of those.
I'll still be updating my blog and tweeting — that is part of the plan, so it won't be hard to reach me if you absolutely need to. I'll be rejoining the cyber-universe August 1, when I move back to Des Moines.
The last final has been taken, the last paper has been written and I am done, done done (at least until tomorrow when I start two summer classes)!I still, however, had to move out, a task I was dreading because of the ordeal it was last year. I decided to make things easier by planning ahead — so last Thursday I headed over to my friendly neighborhood Hyvee to pick up a few cardboard boxes.I was directed to the produce section and ushered into a back room by a man named Nick. He brought me to a tall stack of banana boxes, and I asked, "So do I have to worry about any — uh, stowaways?"I expected him to laugh jovially, but no. He got serious. "Oh yeah — you'll probably want to shake them out before you go. Sometimes tarantulas or scorpions show up in there."!!! Those who have read my blog before know that I hate HATE scorpions. It's my only phobia. It started when I watched "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" when I was a little kid — you know what I'm talking about, the scene where the scorpion murders the ant? F***** terrifying.
What scares me the most is that those suckers are almost impossible to kill. If a scorpion can survie a nuclear apocalypse, then it could definitely hijack a ride in MY banana box.
I broke into a sweat while walking the boxes to my car. The holes on the side of the boxes were menacing; inside was thin white paper wrapped with plastic. I was certain I would feel a sting before collapsing to the ground while shrieking like a girl.
I put the boxes into my car. Two of them were on the front seat next to me. I thought I heard a rustle as I got in, and my bowels threatened to release. I reminded myself that I was, in fact, a male.
I made it a minute of driving before my involuntary and sweaty palms nearly caused me to run over an 80-year old juggling four sacks of groceries on top of a motor scooter.
I pulled over into the corner of the parking lot and shot out of the car, quickly looking around to make sure that I wouldn't unintentionally be the subject of a hit viral video. Then I threw those banana boxes to the ground, where I watched like a hawk for the menacing claw of a sadistic arachnid. I spent the next ten minutes alternating between being terrified and then furiously emptying out the banana-scented boxes onto the pavement and stomping their contents just to make sure.
Thankfully, I didn't uncover any of the little bastards (although a shriveled brown banana nearly caused me to crap my pants). The sturdy boxes worked great for hauling things — but honestly, I think next time I'll just go to Walmart. They don't have scorpions in China, right? RIGHT?!
I had intended for the next series of posts in this blog to turn into a funny and yet poignant collection of entries, spending an substantial amount of time dreaming up provocative, fascinating entries relating to themes within my life. I started to write — and then I discovered Snooki Book Reviews.
Creepy hallway #1: Photo by Jeff Gunderson
Thursday, early August. 9 p.m.
The first thing I see when I enter the Parkside Homes is a note scotch taped to the banister of the ancient staircase.It reads:
"MATT. You're the only one here tonight. I'll try to get weekend renters. MARION."
This is bad. This is really, really bad.
Let me remind you that the 100-year old Parkside Homes began its life as a hospital, complete with a maternity ward (a creepy pink room with a crib awkwardly placed in a closet) and and operating chamber. Some of the construction workers in Tower, who have lived in the Parkside numerous times while working nearby, said they heard a woman scream violently on two occasions and never found the source. Were they hearing a woman's final few seconds of life during childbirth? An operation gone horribly awry?
But the history of the Parkside gets even more colorful. When the hospital ceased operation, it was transformed into an assisted living facility for mental care patients. Or, as Ken so delicately puts it, a nuthouse.
Speaking of Ken, I found a second note upon entering my room that informed me that he was now the former manager of the Parkside, without explaining in the slightest why he was removed.
To summarize: I'm forced to spend a weekend alone in a century-old haunted mental hospital while the former manager is somewhere out there with a potential axe to grind on my face.
I sprang into action, quickly updating my facebook status.
People began to issue tearful goodbyes.
Where ghosts are concerned, I have plenty of experience. Last year, I went hunting with a legit group of ghosthunters in Hibbing. I've also seen Paranormal Activity. This pretty much makes me a pro. Basically, all you gotta do is not piss the ghosts off.
You should also turn on lights. It's a well established fact that ghosts only get frisky after hours. I kept the hall light, the one next to the creepy attic door, fully lit.
I decided to phone a friend, because almost no one in horror movies is killed while on the phone. The conversation was going fine... until it became very apparent that I wasn't alone in the Parkside.
Me: Hey bud, how's it going?
Buddy: Aight, I'm just hanging and--
Me: THERE IS A BAT IN HERE.
It swooped down, actually grazing the top of my head with its mandibles while I dived down and recouped, attempting to find a broom to chase or kill it with. It disappeared, something that was also reflected in my facebook.
Around 11, I stumbled on the perfect way to survive a night in a haunted mental hospital: watch Elf. I lived. End of post. Go check your twitter or something.
Creepy attic door right outside my room: Photo by Jeff Gunderson
I had to spend about twenty minutes with a weed whacker on this blog before I could write to get rid of all those ugly dandelions that sprang up since the last time I posted. I mean day-um, it's been a while! Summer is in full swing, complete with mine pits, mosquitoes and killer tornados. I landed the Summer Job of Awesome and am taking an online course from Duluth that's supposed to be teaching me how not to be racist.
I could talk about all these things, but instead, I'm going to discuss love today (*cue the Isaac Hayes*). My parents recently celebrated their 34th homicide-free year of marriage.
I don't know how they're still together. My mom is an attorney and my dad is a lumberjack, for crying out loud. She's logical, practical and always earthbound. He's creative, emotional and an endless generator of bad puns. He teared up when I went to college and told me I was at the start of my greatest adventure; my mom shoved me out the door and threatened to drive down and rip me a new one if I hadn't vacuumed my bedroom floor so she could use it.
When they married, she was a non-practicing Baptist who I suspect was a lot more feminist than she now says she was. He was from a family of Catholics baptized almost as soon as they popped out of the womb.
They met on the first day of college and were married the day after, so it would be easier for their families to attend both ceremonies. That was in 1976. I once asked my mom why they waited until 1989 to have me, and she told me she didn't know if the marriage was going to last. My mom, a regular Nostradamus, that one.
My parents did some other things that don't make sense. They traveled to California shortly after they were married, intending to shirk the Minnesota winters forever. They got to the Golden Gate bridge and inexplicably turned around and came back, without ever really explaining why. Until I was 15, I thought they named me after St. Matthew; it turns out they really, really liked Gunsmoke. I'm not kidding.
Initially, they celebrated their anniversary with more expensive gifts, I imagine, but as the years went by that habit somehow faded to my dad picking up flowers from Walmart on his way home from work, or ordering a Choppy's pizza. This past week, my mom only gave my dad a card depicting a truck sitting in the top of a tree. Inside, she had only written, "Why?"
My dad planned on getting his normal Walmart flowers gift, but the flowers were wilted this year. Goddamn economy. He had to improvise, buying her a card with two frogs on it, with a message inside saying, "I'll love you till I croak." His other gift? A gigantic bucket of cheese balls. Yes, the cheeto-like, cholesterol inducing orange spheres.
My mom showed me the gift later that rather — rather, showed off the gift. Upon delivery, my dad apparently said, "I figured, 'What do you get the woman who has everything?' Cheese balls."
These cheese balls are off limits to me. I've already been accused once of pilfering from her stock. They frequently discuss the exact specifications of the cheese balls, such as how much cheesy dust would be left over if you ground it all down (I'm guessing half an inch, although the debate rages on) and how much random crap the plastic container will hold once the sweet supply has been swallowed. She enjoys sitting in the chair, he on the couch, while they both watch the Twins (not the World Cup; she's always hated soccer, she revealed to me this week. Only sport I ever played, thanks mom).
Somehow, it's all good.
How? I have no idea. I just hope that someday I find a love that's just as perfect as it is bizarre.
Mom and dad, happy anniversary.
I'm wiped. Exhausted. Why? It's called "moving out," and it sucks worse than the residence hall vacuum clear I spent 20 minutes trying to unclog with a mechanical pencil, terrified that the stringy chunk of grit was, in fact, the elongated tail of a dead cat.I think my last joule of energy was used up when my roommate and I hauled Massive Stained Comfy Sofa down the steps. This had been immediately preceded by Miniature Stained Comfy Love Seat, so we were already a little tired. These things are awkward and smell funny, but they are wonderful for napping after a test or taking sexiling in stride (I should probably add here that all of the stains on them were present when we purchased them... don't give me all that 'Caveat Empor' crap right now). We managed to get both down the (descent to hell) three flights of stairs — at only one point did we become squished between two railings, which caused us to burst into laughter before briefly choking on our own blood. We finally got them into the lobby.That's when I got the call. An on-campus charity group had posted signs describing some sort of on-campus garage sale through the Salvation Army. I'd been assured for the past week that they would OF COURSE take my furniture, including my beloved Massive Stained Comfy Sofa and Love Seat. The truck was to arrive exactly at 11:30, at which point I could lift these two pieces of furniture for the last time and never see them again.At 11, the time when the napping apparatuses were being lowered into the lobby, my phone rang, and I learned that there had been some sort of miscommunication, and the truck was not coming. This left me high and dry in the lobby of Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall with two lonely couches, stains and all.I started panicking. I began to call agencies, Goodwill, the Disabled American Veterans — anyone. These couches HAD to go today, and they were too comfortable to throw away in the trashcan without kindling a significant amount of Catholic guilt, which I was unwilling to start out my summer.I updated my Facebook. AND my Twitter. I considered updating this blog as well, but ultimately decided not to because I've had a low number of unique visitors lately, but a large number of page views (whoever is creeping, start leaving some comments!). No response.I called my mom, the Attorney, who I suspect was in the middle of some sort of important legal procedure with several other people in the same room, because she kept responding with ambiguous Northern Minnesotan answers, such as, "Ya betcha," and "Well, I-da-no aboat that."To make a long story short — I found buyers, thanks to my former Resident Assistant, who I call White-Trash Obsessed because of her fascination with tales of whiteness and trashiness. Less than an hour after I received the phone call from the campus charity, I had those couches sold, and my Catholic guilt was soothed.Now my room is empty. The beds are stripped, the desk is wiped clean, the dresser is empty. I'm actually in here illegally; I checked out this morning, but decided to stay one last night after the Couches Ordeal put me behind schedule. I'm half-expecting White-Trash Obsessed to break into my room and order me to leave in that thick Mizzou accent she gets when she's angry.It's a gone, a whole year of accumulated crap, piled in my car or in garbage cans down the hall. So many memories — the emptier a room gets, the more they stir in the mind.
When you're from Minnesota, you can't go apeshit like normal people can. It's called the "Minnesota Nice." If some short order cook creates a burger made of turds at a restaurant, you smile and eat it anyways and still leave a tip. If someone steps on the back of your flip flop three times in a row (and the cheap shoe breaks), you're always the one who says "Excuse me." And if someone brings an incredibly irritating distraction to a review session that you NEED to concentrate on in order to pass and not screw over your future, you sit in silence, fantasizing about ways in which you could exact your revenge, but still give him an extra pencil if he needs one. If he REALLY gets on your nerves, you furiously scribble a poem when he isn't watching.
Minnesota Not-So Nice
by Matt Nelson
Do you know how badly I want to smash your face in,
Annoying Chip-eating boy?
Or ram that cellophane package in a garbage can
shards of Martha's homestyle bakery chips
up your nose?
I'm waiting for you to choke, Annoying Chip-Eating Boy.
I would like nothing more than to call an ambulance
So you can gasp and wheeze while I
go Office Space on your noisy, Godless potato chip crap bag.
Annoying Chip-eating Boy, I want so badly
to interrupt this lecture and scream
SHUT THE FUCK UP
You put the chip bag down.
Are you done?Idon'tcare.
Go eat a burrito, and let me study modern physics in peace.
This morning, in Modern Physics (don't you dare click away. If I have to suffer through this material for 6 hours a week then you can damn well pay attention to one blog post. Besides, I will reward your patience with pictures of cute animals if you keep reading) we talked about more general applications of Schroedinger's Time-Independent equation, as well as specific, vector-like properties of energy components in three dimensions.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire lecture. Not because I was particularly excited about the material, or drank too much coffee, but because I was expecting my physics professor to pull a rabbit out of his butt. As my lab partner said during the lecture, "Quantum Physics is pretty much, well, magic."
But not the good kind of magic. Not the happy, feel good magic of most disney movies, but the gut-churning, terror-inducing, fear raging kind in the Prestige that results in dead identical twins and chopped off fingers.
It's sort of like I'm Harry Potter, a young wizard who really doesn't understand what the hell is going on. Physics is my magic. Sometimes it produces fantastic results, like the first time I aced a test in college, and sometimes it explodes in my face. I've never been more proud and/or frustrated than while I work on physics problems. There's something so satisfying to a problem, to understanding exactly how and why every portion of it operates, even if it's just a few scratches of ink on paper. It's what keeps me going, even when I want to rip up paper, flip off my professor and storm forever out of the room.
Now that I'm going into teaching, it looks like I'm going to be sticking with it. Who knew? Definitely not me. I'm starting to feel like one of the particles I'm attempting to study, spiraling out of control while people around me try and fail to predict where I'll end up next. It's kind of an awesome feeling.
...s promised, cute animals.