Cat Scratch Fever

About a year ago, on an April afternoon, Al Wolter drove to his neighbor’s house in Sandstone to help with a controlled burn. The neighbor, Cynthia Gamble, a wild-animal trainer, was his best female friend and the two regularly shared cocktails and sang karaoke together on his home machine. “She had an earthy sense of […]

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Caged Heat

Americans have long suffocated under the dead weight of silly, made-up sports like World Wide Wrestling and American Gladiator. Football, basketball, hockey, baseball, NASCAR, even golf and tennis have grown corpulent with corporate money and more branding than you see at a cattle ranch. Then there’s boxing, the oldest sport in the world, which has […]

On the Block

There once lived a very rich man in Hudson, Wisconsin, who suffered from manic-depressive disorder. A couple of years ago, during an upswing, he drove to Seattle and bought five cars at an auction. Among them were a purple mid-eighties Jaguar with gold trim and rims, and a 1972 red Mercedes convertible. I first saw […]

Balancing the Books

One Saturday morning about six weeks before April 15, our national day of fiscal confession and atonement, an Orthodox Jewish man and his son walked along Highland Parkway. The two passed a nondescript side-by-side duplex, where a half-dozen tax preparers were knee-deep in paperwork—the kind of work, the onerous old stereotype goes, usually handled by […]

The Super Shammy Man

Spring was still months away, and standing just inside the entrance of the “Twenty-fifth Annual Cycle World International Motorcycle Show,” at the Minneapolis Convention Center, two blond girls were handing out plastic bags. They looked old enough to get their first tattoos, but demure enough to keep tugging at the creeping hemlines of their neon-green […]

A Celtic Harp

Is there a sound more heavenly than the harp? The ancient, wing-shaped instrument seems incapable—even in the hands of a clown—of producing anything but the most soothing and somber sounds. The Stoney End Harp Company is headquartered in an old barn in a rustic valley just outside Red Wing. For more than a decade, it […]

Hu Are You?

About twenty years ago I had a spiritual awakening. Actually, it was more like a little chat. I was lying on a hospital bed, staring out the window. “Okay, I’m willing to believe you’re out there,” I said to the steam coming out of the sewer in front of St. Mary’s, “if you’ll help me […]

The Bookstore is Dead

Now that it’s closing time at Ruminator Books, some faithful readers may be seen staggering around in front of the locked doors, willing to go anywhere for a fix except those literary sports bars, Barnes & Noble and Borders. Like drunks, they want their medicine straight up with no straws or umbrellas. They like to […]

Message in a Bottle

Selling water in Wayzata would be like selling beer in Baraboo. How then to explain the one thousand people who streamed into Wayzata Community Church the other day to hear a lecture called “The Hidden Messages of Water”? The pews were brimming and the ushers tersely redirected latecomers to folding chairs spilling out into the […]

My Word!

Jeff Mihelich is blind. He is also gay. He also enjoys going to the theater, the Guthrie and Patrick’s Cabaret being among his favorites. For a blind and gay man to actually see a play called Puppetry of the Penis, well, that would be like hitting the trifecta, right? That’s what Mihelich thought when he […]